Part II: What To Make Of The Filibuster Deal?

Readers respond to the Senate staffer email I published earlier:TPM Reader AN:

I just have to respond to the email you published from a Senate staffer regarding why the recently announced filibuster compromise reached is apparently a good thing. This email reads to me like classic “putting lipstick on a pig”. Two points:

1) First, the staffer writes, “All Senate Democrats agree that rules reform is essential. Now we appear to be on the brink of that, and the ‘fix the Senate crowd’ is dismayed.” C’mon. His argument is “we did something. So be happy.” Really?

2) Throughout this email the staffer makes various points about why reaching a negotiated compromise is better than the nuclear/constitutional option; why protecting minority rights is so important and how Democrats will be happy when a Republican is in the White House; and how it really doesn’t matter anyway because there’s any other number of ways for the minority to gum up the works without using the filibuster and even if Democrats could reform the filibuster and pass legislation more easily it would never get past the Republican controlled House anyway. What lame excuse making! And then the staffer goes on to say, “Does Reid’s package achieve much of what Merkley/Udall sought? Yes.” I am sorry, but you can’t talk about the importance of incrementalism and the importance of minority rights out of one side of your mouth and then try to claim that you’ve achieved “real reform” out of the other. It just doesn’t work.

And this is why everyone from progressives to conservative House and Senate members think the Democrats are a bunch of feckless losers. When Republicans are in power they do everything they can to advance and implement their agenda. When Democrats are in power they spend the majority of their time worried about how mad Mitch McConnell is going to be and about what will happen when Marco Rubio is President. What a bunch of chumps.

TPM Reader NLR:

The email sent in by the D Senate staffer relies on the same old pro-filibuster argument: “What if the other side is in power?” How will we stop their nuttiness?

But this argument fails to understand the dynamic way that the filibuster changes the whole political culture. If a party can campaign on a politically popular but stupid idea (e.g., “build the damn fence”) without actually having to enact that idea and deal with the consequences of its stupidity, then the incentives to spew those sorts of stupid ideas becomes huge. Ultimately, the point is that the filibuster incentivizes the nuttiness. Of course, in the short term, we would have to deal with the nuts who have grown up in this system if we flipped the switch. But, the good news is…we’re in power now! So, there is no short term danger and, long term, the nuts recede.

TPM Reader LF:

You did not have to say that the e-mail you received was from a Senate staffer — only someone who works in that body could be so out of touch with reality to believe that this is “a great outcome.”

He proves the stopped clock theory by being right in some sub-points, but completely misses the fundamental concerns, because his argument is based on the idea that “reforms under the constitutional option could be used to hurt us someday when President Rubio teams up with Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell.”

Doesn’t he understand — if there is a President Rubio, Speaker Cantor, and Leader McConnell, that we’re already fucked?!?!?!?

(I hate to answer myself, but no, he does not understand that, because he works in the Senate where the worry is not the policy that passes out if there, but the preservation of some measure of his boss’s prerogative and his workplace dynamics.)

TPM Reader JS:

To the “Senate Staffer,” we already know what’s going to happen if President Rubio, Speaker Cantor, and McConnell et al. get in charge: they are going to “reform” the filibuster themselves, just as they threatened to do in the Bush years. If he doesn’t see that, then it’s only because he’s drinking the same magic potion Democrats have been drinking for far too long which makes them play by the “rules” and then faint when the other team plays for keeps.

Also, I would say to “Senate Staffer” that if America elects a GOP majority and President then they probably *should* be able to enact their agenda. This is a democracy, right? It’s not just a junta of towel-snapping locker room buddies on the Hill… right?

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