“Right now,” writes Paul Krugman, “many commentators are urging Mr. Obama to think small.” Of course. After all this effort, culminating in all this rejoicing, will the opportunities and possibilities of an Obama administration be chewed up in the congressional meat grinder? That’s a key question going forward.
There is one thing the Congressional Democrats can do to help, if not guarantee, that they can enact meaningful policies and programs in a timely way. Time was, liberals saw it as essential. I am referring to the elimination of Rule XXII of the Senate-the filibuster. Next January, by a simple majority vote, this “tradition” with its tawdry racist history, can be gone.
So much has been made in the run up to the election, of the need for Democrats to achieve the “magic number” of 60 to avoid filibusters. But this whole convoluted situation can be avoided by getting rid of the filibuster. The filibuster is not only un-democratic, it is anti-democratic. For decades it was used effectively to block any civil rights legislation. Historically, it was used by conservatives to oppose and block a broad range of progressive proposals.
In 1963, Senator Joseph S. Clark of Pennsylvania-an unsung progressive hero- led an attempt to do away with the filibuster. It failed. And the cause was not taken up again until the Republicans raised the issue (called “the nuclear option”) in 2006. Their reason was that some Democrats were using the filibuster, especially to stop judicial nominations. It’s not a good system. It encourages inaction.
The “center-right” argument runs that both sides need to filibuster to control extremes. But that just ensures stasis and weakness of the Congress, and continued dominance of the Executive branch. Let’s make a bold move to end what James MacGregor Burns notably called, “The Deadlock of Democracy.” We need to consider becoming more like parliamentary systems, where the winning party gets to enact its legislative program. If you are in opposition, you wait until the next election and hope to gain a majority to turn things around. Make a bold move, Obamacrats. Kill the filibuster and get on with the people’s business. At the very least, let the debate about this crucial issue commence-without filibuster.