Ted Cruz, as anyone who has flipped past C-SPAN2 today has no doubt noticed, has embarked on a marathon speech (mostly alone, sometimes with others) against Obamacare. He's into Hour 11, I think, as I write this. Technically, I don't think it can really be called a filibuster, because he's not delaying any action, but this is what lots of people have claimed they want to see. So?
Gosh, I hate to say "told you so", but:
Republicans wouldn't fill the time reading recipes or from the phone book They have large staffs, and an nation full of professional and amateur conservative wordsmiths. They would have plenty of material to use.And:
In the old days, Senators engaged in a filibuster would read recipes or otherwise stray off topic. No need for that now! Not only do Senators have large staffs who could produce content, but there's a whole big internet available. If I were advising the GOP in that situation, I'd tell them to let conservative bloggers know that they can have their big chance for immortality: post something good, and a Republican Senator will read it on the floor of the Senate....Excellent way to rev up the conservative blogosphere, no? Meanwhile, by forcing Republicans to perform a "real" filibuster, Democrats would transform a 24 hour network that millions of Americans get in their homes into a 24 hour Republican propaganda outlet. How is that possibly good for the Democrats?Both written in response to liberals who thought Republicans would somehow be humiliated by having to hold the floor with "live" filibusters.
Now, do any conservatives think that Cruz is humiliating their side of the argument? I very much doubt it, even those who believe that his shutdown/defund strategy is a terrible one. He is, of course, not reading recipes or reading from the phone book. He's been staying on topic, more or less, attacking the ACA and making the case that, his view, listening to constituents means following his plan. Indeed, as I'm listening now, he's reading from a series of statements from state conservative think tanks -- just as I predicted! Well, sort of. The real question is: does anyone doubt that a dozen Senators could keep this going, with more or less the same quality of rhetoric, indefinitely?
(And it's worth noting: Cruz isn't actually filibustering, and he wants to talk; that's the whole point. If a group wanted to keep a filibuster going but needed a break, they could do a quorum call that would allow them to rest until the majority could produce enough Senators on the Senate floor. Under current rules and practices, it's easy to keep a filibuster going).
Whatever one thinks of majoritarian democracy, and whatever one thinks of various proposals for filibuster reform or elimination in the future, I hope everyone gets that under current rules, there is absolutely no advantage to the majority to force a minority larger than one or two Senators to engage in a "live" filibuster. There is simply no point in doing it.