Re-Thinking the Filibuster

President Obama and Senate Democrats have recently floated the idea that it’s time to get rid of the filibuster. So the argument goes, the filibuster is an anti-democratic obstacle that prevents good government and rule by the will of the people.


It’s a valid point.

Come to think of it, the Senate is chock-full of anti-democratic anachronisms. First off, two senators represent each state, regardless of population. What happened to one person, one vote?

And six-year, staggered terms: what’s up with that? It’s another feature that seems designed to make the Senate independent of the will of the people.

So, what do you have if you take the Senate and strip away its anachronistic anti-democratic features? The filibuster, staggered six-year terms, and disproportionate representation?

You have the House of Representatives.

The voters have spoken. Republicans will control the next House by 242-193.

If that proportion translated to the Senate, Republicans would have an advantage of 56-44.

Democrats owe their current majority in the Senate to those anachronistic features that put some difference between the body and the will of the people.


The bottom line is this: the Senate was never intended to be a democratic body, a reflection of one man, one vote. It is a deliberative body, and a consensus-building body. The filibuster has an important role to play in making that possible.

[In case you missed it, Brian Darling took a good look at the Democrats’ hypocrisy on the issue here. Although, in fairness, I think Sen. Robert Byrd had the integrity and the respect for the traditions of the body that he would have supported the filibuster despite his party’s short-term self-interest.]


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