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That Damned Filibuster! Are You Supporting Primary Candidates Who Want To Abolish It?


"Get With The Program" by Nancy Ohanian

Biden hasn't been as bad a president as I expected-- and still expect. Sure, nothing's been accomplished other than... well, not-Trump. And that's all he ever really was promising to be. Last year, I often predicted that history would judge Biden the second worst contemporary president but that, of course, is a long way from being proven right or wrong. After all, the poor slob's only half a year into his term.


That said, Louis DeJoy is still postmaster general and Biden seems to be delighted he's doing all the dirty work conservatives want done to the post office (but for which conservative Democrats like Biden want no blame). The lame-ass excuse is that there's a Democratic board member who is balking at firing DeJoy. Had Biden cared, that guy would have been fired and replaced months ago. But-- let's face facts-- DeJoy is Biden's postmaster general now. Think DeJoy is going to institute postal banking? Do you think Biden wants him to?


The little tirade on CNN against reforming the filibuster from a couple nights ago? I referred to it as an example of Biden's incipient senility. It's that-- and maybe even worse than just that. Biden's crippling political cowardice and unselfconscious racism-- the only reasons for backing even keeping the filibuster, let alone not reforming it-- have always been hallmarks of his career in politics, especially the latter. He's not against the filibuster; he's for the filibuster. If you voted for him in the Obama-fixed primary you should go self-flagellate now and swear on your life you'll never vote for or support anyone endorsed by Jim Clyburn again.

Yesterday, Paul Waldman offered an alternative for progressives angry with Biden for giving cover to the conservative Senate Democrats-- Manchin, Sinema, Hassan and beyond-- who, like McConnell, want to keep the filibuster in place. Waldman's not an idiot and, he acknowledged that Biden's discombobulated answer to the question about getting rid of the filibuster "was weak and unrealistic." And then the pathetic nothing-can-ever-change Beltway "but." Blah, blah, blah...

Instead-- the big reveal-- what Waldman suggests is that liberals "change the conditions in which Biden and members of Congress operate... not by persuading politicians to do the right thing for its own sake, but by altering the political landscape in such a way that the path you want them to take winds up being the only logical choice for them." In other words, replace conservatives-- from both parties-- with progressives.


That’s why one shouldn’t get too worked up about Biden’s thoughts on the filibuster, as exasperating as they might be. He did say he wants to return to rules requiring senators to "stand there and talk and hold the floor,” whereas right now a single member of the minority needs only to send an email declaring their intention to filibuster. [Meaningless bullshit for people around 80 and over.]
But he also said that if it were eliminated, “You’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.” Which is utterly preposterous; if that were the case, then nothing would get done in any state legislature in America, none of which have a filibuster that functions the way the Senate’s does, though a few allow some form of a talking filibuster. (Red-state Republicans should answer this question: Would you favor your state legislature adopting the kind of filibuster you now enjoy?)
As much as Biden pines for the chumminess of the Senate he joined in 1973 [as a full-on anti-progressive unselfconscious racist], his thoughts about the filibuster are something of a muddle. Which suggests that in the right situation he’d be willing to see it go-- and that’s what characterizes much of Biden’s approach to policy and politics. Like many politicians, he has principles but his positions are subject to change.
Why has Biden moved to the left on a variety of issues, from climate change to the minimum wage? It wasn’t due to a conversion experience. It was because persuasion, activism and mobilization happened from below, which changed the perspective of the rank-and-file in his party. As someone firmly committed to staying at the center of gravity within his party, Biden moved in response.
In other words, the context in which he operated changed, and so did he.
Even if Biden seems a particularly malleable president, the same is true to at least some degree of every politician. Even committed ideologues such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) adapt to changes in the political environment and react to the incentives they face.
So if you’re eager to see the filibuster gone so voting rights can be secured and other progressive priorities can be put into policy, where should you look? The problem right now is that two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have very publicly refused reforming the filibuster. Other Democrats may [oh please] agree but don’t want to do so publicly.
Which itself is a clue that those other senators could support filibuster reform if it becomes clear that their own futures depend on it. Unfortunately, Manchin is a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican state whose political brand is built on stymieing liberal legislation, so the more liberals demand filibuster reform the less likely he is to support it.
Sinema is a more complicated case. [Psychotic.] She represents a swing state trending blue, and right now she believes her future still depends on winning Republican support. If she faced a strong primary challenge where this became an issue, she might change her mind.
But the reality is that the only way Democrats will get filibuster reform-- and thereby get action on the rest of their agenda-- is to elect enough Democrats to the Senate so that they don’t need Manchin and Sinema’s votes on the question.
It’s a tall order, especially if we’re talking about the next election, a midterm where the president’s party usually loses seats. But this is what a different landscape would look like: Democrats get 52 or 53 votes in the Senate, their voters clamor for filibuster reform to enable policy change beyond once-yearly reconciliation bills, and enough senators can no longer resist pressure from below. That’s what would produce change.
And Biden? He’d go right along with it, no matter what he says now.

The Democratic establishment is supporting status quo establishment candidates in all the Senate races this cycle, not the progressives championing filibuster reform. You want filibuster reform, and a bold progressive agenda, you back progressive candidates with records that show who they are, like Erica Smith, Alan Grayson and Chris Larson, not mealy-mouthed establishment shills like Cheri Beasley, Val Demings and Sarah Godlewski. Please consider contributing to the Democratic candidates who are firmly, proactively in fave of getting rid of the undemocratic Jim Crow filibuster. You'll find them by clicking on the 2022 Blue America Senate thermometer above-- like Erica Smith, who left the state Senate to turn the open North Carolina U.S. Senate seat blue. "The filibuster is a Jim Crowe relic," she told me this morning. "It’s a tool of obstruction that is used to oppress Black and Brown communities and working people. If you’re not serious about ending the filibuster then you are not serious about ensuring that our government works for all of us, not just the wealthy and the well-connected. The filibuster is effectively a veto for corporations, billionaires, and pharmaceutical companies who own well more than 40 members of the Senate. This is a moment of crisis for our country. Millions of people across North Carolina and across the nation are struggling just to survive. We cannot afford inaction. We cannot afford to continue to allow the United States Senate to operate under a set of rules that was literally designed to keep the wealthy and the powerful, powerful and wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race who has strongly and clearly advocated for the complete abolishment of the filibuster. It’s dishonest for the other candidates in this race to talk about healthcare and voting rights without taking a firm stance on whether or not they’ll support the filibuster. When North Carolina elects me, they won’t just be adding one more vote to the Democrats side of the isle. They will be adding the senator who will ensure the end to the filibuster and the ushering in of a new era for the United States Senate where with 51 votes we deliver on transformational policies that are big enough and bold enough to address the crises working people are facing."


Wisconsin state Senator Chris Larson, currently the only actual progressive in the primary race to take on neo-fascist Ron Johnson next year, has a very similar perspective to Erica's. "The filibuster in the Jim Crowe relic that has held America back from realizing our nation’a true potential for far too long. That should end now that our democracy is literally under threat. If it is not tossed aside in order to protect the right to vote and stop the wholesale efforts to disenfranchise millions of our neighbors, we may not ever have the opportunity again. Look at the issues this campaign is all about. No matter how many times the House passes any of them, the Senate requires 60 votes. That men who wrote the Constitution considered that idea and firmly rejected it as non-democratic. Yet now that ability to veto every bill in built into a conservative perspective of governance to thwart a popular agenda. Can I ask DWT readers to help me put an end to this rotten relic of obstructionism?"


Alan Grayson added that "the filibuster has filibusted the Senate. What used to be the 'greatest deliberative body in the world' now does nothing other than deliberate. We can have the filibuster, or we can have democracy, but we can’t have both. We can have the filibuster, or we can have progress, but we can’t have both. Samuel Johnson once said that '[fake] patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' Well, now it’s the filibuster, and Mitch McConnell is that scoundrel. If I am elected to the Senate, replacing Marco Rubio, then the filibuster will be gone-gone-gone. #BustTheFilibuster.