There was a good discussion of filibuster reform on Up with Chris Hayes
. But some of it was confusing. There were two pro-filibuster guests on the panel. Richard Arenberg and Alan Frumin who both argued energetically for the filibuster. But I found their arguments strangely uncompelling. I was expecting that they would have some great points that I had never thought about. This was not true in the least.
Their argument came down to one very simple point: the Senate is a place where minority rights are cherished. Or something. The truth was the argument wasn't clear, but it was more or less, "Minority rights are good!" And I agree. Minority rights are
good. But this isn't really minority rights. This is just the minority party using its leverage to stop the majority party from doing anything at all.
I get it. At one time, the filibuster really was used only in extreme cases where the minority was really against something. But the following graph tells you everything you need to know about the modern filibuster:
Note that anyone would have to be crazy to say that "both sides do it!" Clearly, there is something entirely new over the last four years.
What no one on the panel mentioned was that the Senate is already a non-democratic chamber of the legislature. What's more: it is heavily biased towards the Republicans. So the use of the filibuster by the Republicans is just adding insult to injury. Another thing no one mentioned (Dare they?) is that regardless of what happens, as soon as the Republicans control both the White House and the Senate, they will not only reform the filibuster; they will eliminate it. Republicans play for keeps. So it is fine to say we ought to keep the filibuster, but it isn't up to the Democrats. The only question that is up to the Democrats is whether they will be allowed to legislate for a couple of years before the Republicans take back control of the Senate.
The most interesting thing in the whole discussion was how Arenberg and Frumin, when it comes down to it, agree with all the proposed changes to the filibuster. Their only concern is that once it is changed it will be easy to change it again, thus leading to its end. But as I said: this is inevitable regardless. And it shows their political naivete that they think it is otherwise.
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