Filibuster Reform

12.21.12

The Senate Must Survive

A 2012 quote on the Senate:

During the ensuing decades, the institution had been subtly altered, decade by decade, into something significantly different from the body that had been envisioned by the Founding Fathers. They had wanted it to be independent, a place of wisdom and deliberation armored against outside forces. But the rise inside the Senate itself of forces they had not sufficiently foreseen - the rise of parties and party caucuses, and of party discipline; the tranformation of America's infant industries into gigantic economic entities which had representatives sitting in the Senate itself - had undermined the Senate's independence from within, and the impact of these new forces on the Senate had been heightened because the armor against outside forces remained in place. Still protected against the people and the President, both of which wanted social progress, the Senate was unprotected against internal forces that opposed social progress, and that were indeed making it much less a place of wisdom and deliberation. Other internal developments - most importantly, seniority and the filibuster - had futher distorted the Founders' dream. They had envisioned the Senate as the moderating force in government, as the cooler of popular will; cool had become cold, had become ice, ice in which, for decades, with only a few brief exceptions, the popular desire for social change had become frozen. Designed as the deliberative power, the Senate had become instead the negative power, the selfish power. The "necessary fence" against executive and popular tyranny had been transfored, by party rule and the seniorty rule, into something thicker and higher - into an impenetrable wall against the democratic impulses it had originally been supposed only to "refine" and "filter," into a dam against which waves of social reform, attempts to to ameliorate the human condition, dashed themselves in vain.

I lied. This quote isn't from 2012. Robert Caro wrote it to describe the Senate LBJ entered in 1949. The Senate survived the Civil Rights Era, the Reagan Revolution, and the tumultuous first decade of our new millenium. Those were a wild 63 years, and I hope we can reform the filibuster because the survival of the Senate for the next 63 matters a great deal to our nation.