To save lots of democracy and obtain unity, the Senate Democrats should kill the filibuster
Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz spoke at the Conservative Political Alliance (CPAC) conference last Friday about the objections they had raised to the typically superficial and ritual Senate endorsement of the election that confirmed Joe Biden’s election as president . These objections undoubtedly contributed to Trump’s months of inciting the rioters who murderously besieged the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6.
I’m not going anywhere, “Hawley told the audience. “I thought it was an important point of view.”
Cruz even went so far as to downplay the real threat the murderous mob posed to Congressmen, staff, police, and other Capitol workers. He mocked Rep Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s expressions of fear and effectively ignored the mob’s screams to lynch Mike Pence and kill Nancy Pelosi.
And of course, they’re not alone, along with Republican Senator Johnson, who continues to claim the violent protests were led by fake Trump supporters, let alone the vast majority of senators who refused to talk to Trump in recent hearings impeachment and the many who continue to spread the conspiracy theory that Trump’s election was stolen.
One of the many conclusions that we draw from this behavior and must emphatically underline is that political unity between these parties is not possible in view of the strongly, indeed diametrically opposed positions which the parties themselves have taken with regard to our democratic system.
The Republicans have made it clear in their behavior that they oppose democracy and have used all means to undermine democracy in order to secure the power of the US government. For example, they continue to pursue their historically aggressive agendas of wandering and voter repression. So far, since the elections in November last year, the GOP legislators in 28 states have tabled over 100 bills to restrict access to voting.
You are far from lovers of democracy.
By and large, they along with Trump advanced the conspiracy theory that all federal court officials, including Trump-appointed judges, local officials, voting machine manufacturers, and postal workers, worked shamefully together to steal Trump’s election. This theory rests on the premise that Republican governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia and Dough Ducey of Arizona, both Trump supporters, as well as Trump-appointed federal judges, Republican secretaries of state, Mitch McConnell and others, are all involved in the lies. Only Trump, documented as a notorious pathological liar, can be believed.
They want power, not representative democracy. They don’t care that the majority of Americans support the increase in the minimum wage. They don’t care that the majority of Americans desperately want and need a COVID relief package. They have no desire to represent the interests and needs of the American people just to impose their own moral and economic vision on Americans.
You have not behaved like a party to law and order based on the rule of law. They behave like a party of anarchic autocrats trying to enforce a republican order that is largely shaped by hatred, regardless of the will and desires of the American people, especially LGBTQ people, colored people, immigrants, workers, women, disabled people and people who practice religions other than Christianity and more.
Democrats tend to honor the democratic system and to work to maintain and expand its functioning so that they refrain from taking power, respect and privilege the system over the interests of gaining political power in order to push through and enforce their own agenda.
Given these different attitudes – and actions – towards democracy itself, political unity is not possible.
Political unity, however, is different from national unity. A government that promotes national unity is arguably a government that works to serve the lives and needs of all Americans.
Since Republicans have no interest in this type of national unity, as evidenced by their opposition to Biden’s COVID relief package and the minimum wage increase, both of which are largely supported by the American people, we can see that a political unity, a garbled compromise, between Democrats and Republicans would, in fact, undermine Biden’s genuine efforts to unite the nation.
And therefore, Democrats need to use the mechanisms that the democratic system provides to get rid of the filibuster.
The spirit of the filibuster, a mechanism that effectively means that Senate legislation must earn 60 votes to pass instead of getting a simple majority, has been to suggest, yes, insist on a political compromise.
However, compromise is not necessarily the spirit of democracy, especially when that political compromise results in the will and needs of the American people being crossed and disregarded.
The democrats are fully in their rights and would play within the rules of our democracy to eliminate the filibuster. Mitch McConnell was perfectly happy to eliminate the Filibuster in 2017 when it came down to ratifying Supreme Court justices. That’s a pretty big deal. These nine people exercise an incredible amount of decision-making power over the lives of Americans.
Certainly we can allow 51 elected officials to make decisions about important laws that affect millions of lives, such as whether or not the minimum wage should be increased.
As Democratic Senator Brian Schatz stated in a tweet, “The filibuster was never in the constitution, largely a coincidence, and has been used in the past to block civil rights. It’s time to toss the Jim Crow Filibuster in the trash. “
In short, the filibuster was a Senate instrument that was typically used to disrupt democracy rather than enable it.
It has shorted out the Senate’s ability to legislate on behalf of the majority of Americans as elected representatives to honor their will.
If Democrats want to save democracy and work towards unity, they must remove the filibuster obstacle.
Rest assured that the American people will not greet and re-elect the Democrats for keeping this mechanism of fruitless and mangled compromise. You will accuse them of not serving them, honoring their will, and acting to meet their needs.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.