I totally understand why people are so keen to get rid of the filibuster. I cannot for the life of me understand why --- given the shining example of majority-rule just a football field south of the Senate --- they do not understand that there are both positive and negative consequences to doing so.I think I know the answer to this one, although I'll admit it's speculative. And the answer is...political culture. Or, if you prefer, poor education.
Basically, there's incredibly widespread belief about two things in the US, one which confuses us and one which is just plain false:
1. Democracy is the best system of government (sometimes, but not always, with the Churchill qualifier; sometimes, especially these days among conservatives, with an essentially nonsense distinction between "republic" and "democracy"); and,
2. In democracies, decisions are made by majority vote.
That the first of these is virtually uncontested winds up with everyone believing that whatever reforms they support make things more democratic. This matters because it gets in the way of clear thinking about what democracy actually is, since it becomes whatever it is we think best. It is, however, not actually true. Some of us have other things we care about; for example, we might care more about policy outcomes than the system of government that achieves them. It's OK that we're not all committed to democracy above all else; it would help us talk about this stuff if we were willing to accept that (and, in turn, accept that democracy isn't all "[t]he good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day").
The second one is just plain wrong. At best, a pure, strict, majoritarian democracy is one of the many varieties of democracy, and not one that many democratic theorists (or, for that matter, democratic polities) actually subscribe to. But there are plenty of other forms of democracy. As always, I turn to Hannah Arendt on the difference between majority decision and majority rule:
...we commonly equate and confound majority rule with majority decision. The latter, however, is a technical device...In America, at any rate [the Constitution was] framed with the express and conscious intention to prevent, as far as humanly possible, the procedures of majority decisions from generating into the "elective despotism" of majority rule (On Revolution, 164-165, or at least it was in the old editions).We adopt the "technical device" of majority voting often -- not always -- because it works well enough in many instances. That's just fine. But thinking that the goal is majority rule, and that the job of democratic design is to find procedures to empower one particular majority as much as possible, is totally backwards.
None of which is to say whether majority voting is appropriate in any particular situation, or to ignore that the Constitution has plenty of anti-majoritiarian mechanisms which certainly matter in the question of what Senate procedures are more or less democratic. It's just that I think basic democratic (mis)education in the US far too often equates democracy with majority rule, and leaves people believing that these questions are obvious and easy.*
The truth? Democracy doesn't always produce the substantive outcomes we want. And: democracy is more complex than just taking a vote and whoever gets the most votes, wins. That your grade school teachers (and, I'm afraid, many of your college professors) didn't explain that to you is too bad, but it is nevertheless the truth.
*OK, I spent way to much time trying to work "lie to me" into that paragraph, and I'll just settle for this footnote...basically, we watched that episode again last night, and as usual it's with me all day today. My apologies.