Friday, March 04, 2011

Are Dems just following in the path blazed by the GOP?

Democratic refugees from Indiana and Wisconsin are  still settled in Illinois last I checked.  They are still being lambasted by their Republican colleagues back home and Fox News pundits.

But, right or wrong, aren’t the Dems just doing what Republicans in the U.S. Senate have done for years, except on a larger, more visible scale?  I’m talking about the fine tradition of the filibuster that we all learned about from Jimmy Stewart.  You remember how he stood and talked and stood and talked in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington until he couldn’t do it any more.

Filibusters in the U.S. Senate these days are a lot more wimpy and a lost less dramatic.  A Senator simply announces the filibuster and that’s it, other than that the bill under consideration can’t proceed until the Senator says so.

Senates in this country have tradition of “consensus” as opposed to the lower chambers’ majority rules approach to lawmaking.  When one or the other party has a majority and could otherwise ramrod their bills, the filibuster serves to slow them down and force them to compromise with the minority.  Ask any Republican and any Fox pundit – they’ll tell you I’m right and that the filibuster is a time honored mechanism to protect the rights of the minority.  Except of course in Indiana and Wisconsin.

I haven’t taken the time to find out; but, I gather that the rules in Indiana and Wisconsin don’t provide for filibusters.  But aren’t the Midwest Democratic politicians just doing the same thing, and doing it in the old fashioned dramatic mode popularized by Jimmy Stewart?


dr sardonicus said...

Jimmy Stewart, and Abe Lincoln too. Best Republican we've ever had.

The Curmudgeon said...

I agree with you about the wimpiness of current filibuster rules. I suspect (though I've not researched it) that Jimmy Stewart would have been clotured, too, before he had a chance to get warmed up under the current rules.

Fun Facts about the Senate: "In selecting an appropriate visual symbol of the Senate in its founding period, one might consider an anchor, a fence, or a saucer. Writing to Thomas Jefferson, who had been out of the country during the Constitutional Convention, James Madison explained that the Constitution's framers considered the Senate to be the great 'anchor' of the government. To the framers themselves, Madison explained that the Senate would be a 'necessary fence' against the 'fickleness and passion' that tended to influence the attitudes of the general public and members of the House of Representatives. George Washington is said to have told Jefferson that the framers had created the Senate to 'cool' House legislation just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea."

But I'm having difficulty equating dereliction of duty with profiles in courage. Wisconsin Gov. Walker is probably losing the PR battle, at least as of yesterday when he refused to meet with the runaways. But the bottom line is that, in no other industry does the union get to pick who sits across the table to negotiate with it. In blue states, like Illinois, Democratic nominees are hugely favored to win and public sector unions have an extraordinary influence in the Democratic primaries. Wisconsin, though it currently has Republican majorities, has traditionally been as blue as Illinois. Milwaukee had an avowed Socialist as mayor for many years. Republicans, when there were any, tended to be from the La Follette mold. The Wisconsin electorate apparently tried to move their state in a different direction -- they chose "change" -- and it is the Wisconsin Democratic State Senators that are the forces of reaction. I'm glad they're spending money here in Illinois, but they should go home and do their jobs.

Dave said...

I'll accept that the Wisconsin Dems are derelict if you agree that Republican U.S. Senators are also derelict by their use of holds on scores of judicial nominations. I think the filibuster needs some major tweaking at local and national levels.

And, given that you commented, I went to your place fully expecting a new post, your comments usually being indicators that you were finishing goofing off by writing and reading blogs, always around lunch time, and what did I find? Nothing new. Just when I thought I had you pegged.

Jack said...
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The Curmudgeon said...

That's good. I hate to be too predictable.

And I'll surprise you again by agreeing that the Republican senators are abusing the hold privilege (although two vacancies were just filled in the Central District of Illinois). I will add, however, that the Democrats were doing the same thing when the White House had a different Occupant: It's wrong both ways.