There’s really no time to lose. This whole inauguration thing is a complete distraction.
To watch a lot of the news shows, you’d think it was time for touchy-feely reflection about all the lofty things we want to do in the next four years. In my opinion, that’s exactly wrong. It’s nothing that Obama should be doing, and it’s nothing that the US public should be indulging.
The problem with a first administration is that one comes into office with a lot of starry-eyed ideas of what’s possible. Like having a nation not of red and blue, but of purple. That simply did not work. Determined to deny legitimacy to the very idea of an Obama presidency, for reasons that it’s hard not to see as racial, the Republican “leadership” declared a War of Obstruction on every aspect of Obama’s vision.
I use the term “leadership” in what are sometimes called scare quotes because these Republicans holding leadership titles have been doing anything but lead. They have been scared into perfect lockstep with one another, never daring to deviate, because the scariest thing they can imagine is not an America ruled indirectly by Plutocrats but rather something so pedestrian and selfish as losing their own paycheck. How sad for them. How sad for us.
Although President Obama accomplished a great many things, much of his first term could have been even more powerful had he been a little less trusting of the Republicans. It’s understandable how he screwed up. He wanted to believe they wouldn’t sink that low. But they proved him wrong. So, to quote the most recent President Bush, “Fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—You can’t get fooled again.” The metaphor of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick was repeatedly used in the media to describe what the GOP did to Obama in the first term.
So let’s just hope he’s not doing anything starry-eyed. Let’s hope instead he’s gained a certain sense of focus and he’s noticed a few obvious things that need fixing: Citizens United, election funding, voter ID, and the filibuster.
On the opening day of the new Senate session, it’s possible to easily change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote. That is, just the Democrats could do it—by themselves. That “day” has been administratively extended until today, the first day the Senate reconvenes.
Now is the time to reform the Senate rules to fix the filibuster. Now. Today. It’s not time to talk about the inauguration. That can be talked about next week. It’s not time to talk about lofty visions of the future or touchy-feely remembrances of the past. It’s time for every voter to communicate, whether by web, phone or carrier pigeon, to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to their own senator, to President Obama or Vice President Biden that they want the silent filibuster retired and the talking filibuster restored.
The filibuster has been increasingly overused, but the worst of it is that the overuse is invisible, done behind closed doors. The filibuster has the very powerful effect of transforming the vote threshold from majority vote to super-majority vote. That effect was intended to be used out in the open for all to see. A super-majority was never intended to be the threshold for passing the normal business of the Senate. Yet if the filibuster is invoked every time, as it has come to be, that’s the practical effect. Abuse of the filibuster gives the minority party the ability to stop work completely in a way that is hard for the general public to detect and understand. It’s all too easy to accidentally blame on the majority party for such inaction, which of course is what the GOP wants. It must be fixed, and fixed for all time, regardless of which party holds the majority. If the filibuster is to be used, let it be in the open. Period.
Republican abuse of the filibuster has kept much important business of the Congress from happening, and it’s time to drastically tighten it. The easiest and best change is the talking filibuster. Then the public can know when it’s being used and can judge whether it’s used properly. Anything else is not adequate to support democratic oversight of elected leaders. We need to see when and why things are being held up in this way. Harry Reid must accept no substitutes.
Everyone needs to take the time to communicate their desire to see a return to the talking filibuster. All news shows should be covering nothing but this for today. It matters, and it matters a lot. The cost of this deadlock is perpetual extortion by a minority party in a land that was designed to live by majority rule. What an irony that the GOP, the party that alleges concern about “original intent” should have permitted this to happen. But it’s time now to fix it.
Tell Harry Reid, tell your Senators, tell the Oval Office, and tell your friends:
Fix the Senate.
End the Silent Filibuster.
Restore the Talking Filibuster.
Follow the issue on Twitter or on Facebook, and spread the word.
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Oh, and, Harry Reid, if you’re reading this, please make sure you read Melissa Harris Perry’s recent on-air letter to you about your leadership on gun control, because the same advice she gave you there about leadership could apply equally well here about the filibuster. I keep hearing you want a watered down version of the talking filibuster. I hope that’s just false. That is not what’s needed. Be a leader. You were given a national leadership role for a reason: to best represent We The People. And it’s just clear what We need. We need a clear rule, not that too-complicated, weasely rule you have bargained down to instead. If by chance you can’t bring yourself to lead, it’s time to give someone else have a chance. Now. There’s no room for inaction or wimpy action at critical moments like this. The nation is depending on you. If you can’t pass the talking filibuster on a simple majority vote of members of your own party, you’re not much of a leader. But at least bring it to a recorded vote so we can see who obstructed it and make sure they don’t get re-elected.