Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ahead-of-the-Curve Hackery

I've seen plenty of solidly argued pieces in favor of parliamentary systems over the US system, although I usually disagree with them. And I've seen lots of well-argued pieces in favor of a more majoritarian US Senate, which I generally sort of half-agree with. But what's new to me is a abrupt jump from a long argument for Canadian superiority to the US system to:
Those who defend the filibuster tend to pick out some instances where it cut their way. It hurt us when our side was on top, they tell us, but go back a bit further and you'll find an example where it cut our way. If I'm correct, however, it systematically hurts the country. In particular, conservatives who want to undo the legislative mess of the last few years will want to put their finger on the nuclear option to blow up the filibuster...That is why, if the 2012 election turns out as I expect, the first order of business for then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell should be a return to simple majoritarian rule and the elimination of the filibuster.
That's F.H. Buckley, a law prof at George Mason, who is clearly ahead of the curve here. After all, we all do expect a fair amount of flipping on these issues if, indeed, the 2012 elections result in unified GOP control (prediction: Dem pols would flip, but a fair number of Dem bloggers would remain anti-filibuster and lament what they see as a foolishly short-sided choice by Dem Senators). But it takes far more talent than most to come up with a principled, or at least a principled-looking, argument for why the filibuster should be eliminated as soon as control of the Senate flips, but not a moment before. Buckley, unlike most, will be able (should the elections go that way) to parade around next winter calling for abolition of the filibuster and honestly claiming that he called for it way back when the Democrats held the White House and the Senate.

Sort of.

It's really an awesome effort. After 1600 words devoted to arguing that parliamentary systems are superior, the last three operative paragraphs drop that entirely and make a practical partisan argument for conservatives to support a majoritarian Senate based on the idea that conservatives have a larger agenda than do liberals and therefore will benefit from making it easier to pass laws. At least after they win!

I'm not sure whether Andrew Sullivan has an award for this kind of advanced hackery, but if he does this piece really deserves serious consideration.


  1. Call it the "David Brooks Award."

  2. It could be named in honor of the subject under consideration, though I imagine Sullivan might wince at a recognition for cynical partisan hackery being called the Buckley Award.

  3. The perpetual supermajority requirements in the Senate are horribly anti-democratic and a huge impediment to any substantive legislation ever being passed to address most any issue.

    There are reasonable arguments to be made that these rules changes should only happen at the start of a congressional session or with a 2/3rds majority (which is unlikely to happen).

    Its not, necessarily, too craven to suggest that the fillibuster should be killed at start of 113th congress (it should be!). But it should be killed regardless of who holds the majority. Considering the widespread abuse of the 111th congress, it should have been killed at the start of the 112th.

  4. If the GOP takes the Senate and the White House, you can BANK on them dropping the filibuster rule without a second thought toward intellectual honesty or even partisan retribution. They will simply argue that the Dems threatened to do it, so it must be OK with them.

    That puts the Dems on the defensive, not as if the GOP will care. They will get what they want then. Also, as soon as they are back in the minority, you can also BANK on them screaming for a reinstitution of the filibuster.

    You see, intellectual consistency and honesty has as it's core platform that hyprocrisy is a terrible vice. For the GOP, admitting hypocrisy or feeling it at all is a weakness. Hence, they will heartily endorse Romney the flip-flopper as their standard bearer, should that be the case, and see nothing at all similar with between his flip-flop and those that they accused John Kerry of.

  5. If the GOP takes the Senate, if I were the Dems, I'd put up as much faux protest as possible, and then let them do it. Don't scream enough to stop it. Just enough to be credible.

    I'll take two years of majority GOP rule in exchange for eliminating the filibuster any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    A huge dose of Republican overreach would be just the thing to open more people's eyes to how extreme the party has become.

  6. Mr. George 'Koch' Mason: "If I'm correct, however, it systematically hurts the country. In particular, conservatives who want to undo the legislative mess of the last few years will want to put their finger on the nuclear option to blow up the filibuster..."

    First, was he calling for this a year or so ago? It comes down to preparatory partisan hackery - he's saying that the filibuster should be dropped as soon as it benefits his party.

    I disagree that the GOP would destroy the filibuster if they took the Presidency in 2012.
    Most of those Democratic Senators who defended the filibuster and checks & balances and blah blah blah will suddenly become lapdogs of 'Our President'.

    Also, 'legislative mess of the last few years '?
    Project much?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?