Democrats want as many people to vote as possible; Republicans want as few people to vote as possible. Unfortunately, Republicans are better than than the Democrats at this game. The Republicans are inspired by the Spirit of Lee Atwater, the Democrats by, well, no spirit.
“Rather than look for campaign ammunition in the former vice president’s long track record of politically vulnerable votes and policy proposals, Trump has instead chosen to describe Biden as a godless Marxist bent on destroying the country with a radical agenda that would make Che Guevara blanch.
“The caricature is one that neither Biden’s critics nor supporters recognize — but it’s one Trump continues to promote.”
There is little doubt that if Democrats retake the Senate and the White House, the Republicans will be as obstructionist as they were under Obama. So if want to get anything done, they will have to face the issue of the filibuster. Mitch McConnell has warned the Democrats not to touch the filibuster but he is, of course, a unprincipled reptilian whose brain consists entirely of one giant amygdala, and who consequently is only interested in one thing: power. His open hypocrisy in stating that he would fill any SCOTUS vacancies that occur this year (after his refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s nomination up for a vote) amply demonstrates this fact. So we should ignore whatver he says about the filibuster. Rather than eliminate it entirely. I would like to propose a reform that would retain it while preventing Republican obstructionism while making the Senate more representative of the people.
Back in 2007, the Republicans controlled the Senate and had not yet eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominations. The Democrats used it often (but not nearly as often as the Rublicans were to use it during the Obama years) and came under fire as “obstructionists.” I wrote a piece urging the Democrats to take the offensive and defend themselves on the grounds that they represented the majority. At that time, 42% of Americans lived in states with two Democratic Senators, 40% in states with two Republican Senators, and 18% with one of each. Today, those figures are 44%, 40%, and 16% respectively (independent senators are counted with the party they caucus with).
The Democrats are in a good position to recapture the Senate in November. If so, their edge in constituents represented would likely increase. If they want to accomplish anything (assuming that they hold the House and gain the White House), they will have to do something about the filibuster. There is some debate concerning the constitutionality of the filibuster and they might well be tempted to abolish it altogether but I would like to suggest a better idea: on cloture votes (and only on cloture votes), weigh each senator’s vote according the population of their state and if the votes against cloture represent a majority of the US population, the vote fails. Pragmatically, it would make it virtually impossible for the Republicans to block anything and it can be defended as making the Senate more (small d) democratic. If the filibuster is a protection of minority rights, then this is one on steroids. In theory, a minority of only 18 Senators (representing the nine most populous states) could block a bill’s passage. I would also suggest that the filibuster as reformed be reinstated for judicial nominees.
Granted, there are one serious objection to this idea. The Constitution states (Art. I, sec. 3) that “each Senator shall have one Vote.” However, I think this can reasonably be construed to refer to votes on the passage of legislation and not to procedural votes such as closure. After all, the Constitution also says (Art. 1, Sec. 5) that “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” The courts have given great deference to Congress’s procedural rules, holding them beyond judicial inquiry. The lead case is United States v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1 (1892), where the Court stated
“The Constitution empowers each house to determineits rules of proceedings. It may not by its rules ignore con-stitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights, and thereshould be a reasonable relation between the mode or methodof proceeding established by the rule and ttie result which issought to be attained. But within these limitations all mat-ters of method are -open to, the determinatio. of the house,and it is no impeachment of the rule to say that some otherway would be better, more accurate or even more just. It isno objection to the’validity of -a rule that a different one hasbeen prescribed and in force for a length of time. The powerto make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted. Itis a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by thehouse, and within the limitations, suggested, absolute andbeyond the challenge of any other body or tribunal.” 144 U.S. at 5.
But challenging weighted cloture votes presents a special problem. If the Democrats invoke cloture, the bill goes to a vote and then to the President. By the time a court can hear the case, the law in question will have duly passed both houses and been signed by the President, all in accordance with the Constitution. I can’t imagine any court invalidating a statute because it thinks the Senate should have debated longer. The case would be dismissed as moot. The courts could invoke the exception to mootness that it did in Roe v. Wade, i.e., that the issue was “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” However, even if the courts did ultimately strike down the procedure, the Democrats could then eliminate the filibuster altogether.
An idea worth considering, I think.
Max Boot in WaPo: “When Mike Judge’s movie “Idiocracy” came out in 2006, almost no one saw it. (The film grossed less than $500,000 at the box office.) Now everyone should see it.
“Luke Wilson plays an average Joe who is put into suspended animation and reawakens 500 years later to find himself the smartest person in America because everyone else has gotten so dumb. The No. 1 TV show features contestants being hit in their private parts; crops are watered with a sports energy drink, causing a famine; and the president is a former wrestler and porn star who curses freely and fires automatic weapons on TV.
“Is there a better prophecy of our end times? The only thing “Idiocracy” really got wrong was its timeline. It has taken just 15 years, not 500, for America to become an idiocracy. Don’t believe it? Look at our response to the coronavirus pandemic. …
“We can and should hold our leaders responsible, but ultimately, we have no one but ourselves to blame. Nobody forced so many Americans to act so recklessly — first by placing their faith in a president who doesn’t deserve it, and now in ignoring widely publicized scientific findings. We are living — and now dying — in an idiocracy of our own creation.”
After all, depriving millions of Americans of their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic is a remarkably stupid idea, even for this administration. Republicans deserve to suffer at the polls for this.
With more to come ..
Foreign Policy: “The sorest financial cankers of the Trump era are all emanations of this contemporary world political economy: the oligarch, the tax-avoiding supercorporation, the offshore-owned luxury properties used to launder money, and the untraceable dark money circulating at home and from authoritarian states. This makes the world safe for kleptocracy and authoritarianism and harms U.S. national interests by facilitating the corruption of business and political elites at home. It is not just the place where global unfettered capitalism directly impacts the country’s national politics and security but where Democrats need to rise to the challenge. …
“The crisis of the Trump presidency has shown that the boundaries between home and abroad are no longer firm. Undermining the international financial system that empowered kleptocracy, and with it autocrats like Vladimir Putin, requires tracing dirty money through not just the Caymans and Kyiv, Ukraine, but Wilmington, Delaware, and Las Vegas. The most vital step Washington can take to fight kleptocracy is banning anonymous shell companies within the United States itself. …
“Fighting kleptocracy is at the heart of an internationalist foreign policy that recognizes that the modern world is deeply interconnected and thus national security depends on understanding and managing these gaps. A Biden administration would have the opportunity to reorient the U.S. alliance system toward these 21st-century challenges by tying U.S. domestic reform with a common set of anti-kleptocratic standards shared with the European Union and the United Kingdom. …
“The battle against kleptocracy is more than a contest over corruption or development in faraway countries. It is a vital front in the war to make the world more habitable for the global middle class, which includes America’s own long-suffering workers. A focus on kleptocracy is a first step to reconciling U.S. domestic and foreign policies and making the world more just, and safer, for Americans and others.”