Democracy & Democrats are Better Off Without the Filibuster by Luke Perry
Let’s stop pretending the legislative filibuster is not all but dead. Leaders Schumer and McConnell collectively dismissed this suggestion, but if Democrats were so sure Republicans would go nuclear when necessary regarding the Supreme Court, there is little reason to believe they wouldn’t do the same against legislative opposition.
President Obama faced similar challenges of divided government, but played by the rules. President Trump figuratively rewrote the rules in getting elected and Leader McConnell is literally rewriting them to pass the Republican agenda. The result is political opportunism displacing protocol.
Nominating Cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices solely along party lines is not good, but will likely become more common with the filibuster gone. Otherwise, good riddance to the filibuster.
The filibuster promoted stability, but did so at the expense of responsiveness. A sixty percent threshold to pass legislation made sense in America’s early Republic, with limited citizenship and small population; not in the large, diverse democracy America has become.
Liberals are upset by the circumstances of the filibuster’s demise, but shouldn’t be upset with the result. Requiring a super majority to pass Senate legislation has been an inherently conservative force in American politics. The inaction it produced consistently benefited the status quo and demographic elite (white, straight, wealthy, males).
Liberals will be institutionally better able to pursue and enact a progressive agenda. Citizens typically don't want to undo progressive social policies once passed.
What’s stopping conservatives from being equally incentivized to pursue more ideological policies?
They’re not popular. The American Health Care Act is a prime example. Imagine the Freedom Caucus wrote the bill. President Trump, the leader of their party, has openly threatened them as a fringe group while his approval rating is hovering around 35 percent nationally.
Removing the filibuster benefits democracy and Democrats. Of course, Democrats need to win control of Congress first. This is clearly not their strong suit of late.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.