European Statism and the Death of the Filibuster
The greatest damage of Obamacare is not the legislation itself, but the destruction of the filibuster.
The United States Senate is a rather unique institution in the annals of parliamentary governance. It only analogue and, indeed, model is the House of Lords; similarly destroyed by a charismatic socialist. While parliaments the world over institutionalize the concept of majority rule, the Senate is designed specifically to protect the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the majority. It was a brilliant concept, one of several in the United States Constitution to “district” elections. A method of forcing a candidate to win not just a majority vote but a majority of several electoral districts.
Hitler won his election as chancellor. And, to him went the spoils. All of them. Within the paradigm of German governance at the time, what Hitler did to the Jews was ‘legal.’ It was this precise event that our Founding Fathers anticipated in coming up with a bicameral legislature; in particular, the Senate. For, in general, the best default status, legislatively, is to do nothing. This may be frustrating to some inspired reformer, but the it is far better to do nothing than to charge off a cliff in pursuit of some ‘brilliant’ (at least in the eyes of the reformer) ‘change.’
And, over it two or so centuries of its existence, the Senate developed traditions and methods of doing business that enhanced it ability to fulfill its role as protector of individual rights. One of those tools is the filibuster. It is but one of a variety of methods to gives, literally, a solitary Senator the power to delay the business of the Senate. But, the filibuster is the crown jewel of those tactics; to create the need for a supermajority for doing business. It is a double edged sword, a godsend when you’re in the minority, but frustrating as hell when you’re in the majority.
Last week, in engineering the passage of Obamacare, Obama, Reid and Pelosi threw out the protections of the filibuster. Arguably, the Democrats, at least until last summer indeed had a mandate to wring the sort of change that Obamacare represents. Arguably, the GOP perhaps had no right to sit at the table.
But, with the angry townhalls of last summer, the elections of two GOP governors in New Jersey and Virginia (both states carried by Obama in 2008) changed that dynamic. Finally, the election of Scott Brown to the US Senate, last January gave the GOP the crucial 41st vote. It is at this point the GOP earned its right to sit at the table of deliberations; particularly over the final shape of Obamacare.
In doing so, this was going to upend the entire health bill if it went through ‘regular order.’ But, Scott’s election wasn’t a bolt out of the blue. For the better part of six months public polls, two governor’s elections and the town hall protests already tipped off the Democrats that this bill was not wanted and did not carry any mandate with the very people whom Congress is supposed to serve.
So, the philosopher kings in the Democratic congressional leadership with our messiah-complexed president needed a method to shove legislation past all opposition. The entire exercise of passing the Senate bill in the House and following with a reconciliation bill was to avoid the filibuster and completely circumvent the Senate’s true role of serving as a check, in the name of individual rights, the tyranny of the majority. It was to lock out the minority’s ability–though supported by a majority of the electorate–to serve in its role to place a significant check on the majority’s will.
The result is the reduction of the Senate to another House of Commons. A style of governance that flies in the face of the intent of the US Constitution, designed to prevent permanent majorities to develop thereby run rough shod over individual rights. And, it furthers Obama’s style of governance, honed in Chicago, in which a coalition of a favored 50 percent plus one gets to loot the hard work of the out-of-favor 50 percent minus one. Maybe there are wiser heads in the Senate Democratic caucus that appreciate the damage that was done because they are going to have to repair the damage before the November 2010 elections.
Because after the mid-term elections filibuster is gone. I doubt that McConnel, as majority leader, is going to take the likes of Durbin or Schumer at their word that they will respect the filibuster when they get back into the majority. Reforming filibuster as being proposed by a number of the Democratic Senators is meaningless. Every legislative road block by the minority will be ‘reconciled.’ But, given the damage of Obama’s policies the GOP is going to have its hands full ‘reconciling’ Obama’s damage out of existance.