FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Busting the Filibuster

by BEN TRIPP

When most people hear the word ‘filibuster’, they automatically think of Philip Armbruster, inventor of the steam banjo and the self-ladling tureen. In fact the filibuster is a vital tool in the legislative sabretache, used to ensure that a minority group, such as the American public, does not have its best interests steamrolled by the marching jackboots of the majority in power. And yet, there is a fierce Republican effort to do away with this ancient tradition. What is a filibuster, you ask stupidly? I groan. The word ‘filibuster’ comes from the Dutch vrijbuiter, from which we also get ‘freebooter’. The original sense of the word was that of a mercenary, someone inclined to take hostages. It came into its modern sense when officially condoned in 1872: the exercise of the right to ‘unlimited debate’ to literally talk legislation to death, sheer loquacity grinding legislative business to a halt.

As many nanocephalous nabobs of nugatory nonsense have opined in recent days, the filibuster is a dirty trick. But so what? It works, and it’s legal. It is galling to consider that these same anti-filibuster Republicans have made free use of the practice over the years, especially back when they were right-wing Southern Democrats-­ the eburneous Right striving to keep the ebenious Left down for the better part of a century. (When Civil Rights legislation became law, they switched parties.) There is, for the record, no official tally of which party made the most filibusters: a filibuster has no clear margins. You know one when you see one, but it doesn’t get recorded as such. I have this directly from the Senate Historian’s office (thank you, Mary). I can say that a Republican holds the record for longest filibuster (Strom ‘Darth’ Thurmond at 24 hours, 18 minutes, not including the rest of his career; see ‘Civil Rights’ above). And the mere threat of a filibuster to stall Senate business is all it usually takes. Why, then, would the oft-minority Republicans want to be rid of something that has been so useful to them?

Because, gang, they don’t ever intend to be in the minority again. Between the recent spate of miraculous Republican-favoring election results, gerrymandering (another word for another day), and the complete and total collapse of the opposition, Republicans are feeling pretty confident that the filibuster won’t be required by them any time soon. They’re packing the courts, they’re rewriting the laws, and they’re in charge of the voting machines. Add to this a gullible, ignorant, fear-crazed, superstitious, xenophobic electorate, and you have yourself a Thousand-Year Right. It never works out that way, of course. We’ll get sick of $10.00 gallons of gasoline and FBI stings and Terror Alerts (‘alert’ doesn’t even enter into the thing) and Ann Coulter’s skeletal knees and fascist Bible nuts peeking into our bedroom windows; we’ll grow weary of joblessness and deficits and wars and the hatred of the rest of the world. It’s only a matter of time. Hitler, whose name I quite cheerfully invoke when thinking not of Bush but of Karl Rove, the Frank Oz to this president’s Fozzy the Bear, only managed 12 years. Rove, through Bush, will get at least 8 years.

But 2008 is a long, long way off, with nothing but steaming devil scats strewing the path between now and then. The Republican majority will shrink like a polar bear’s privates, Democrats will probably attempt to piece together some semblance of a functional government again, and humanity-based legislation will start coming back to the Senate floor. The Republicans will need the filibuster, and they won’t have it. So why force the issue? Why buck history? Many people are saying this is about the judges. The entire filibuster debate began when Bush re-nominated a gaggle of ideological whackbags to the courts, persons so patently unsuited to the job that even the Democrats didn’t have the stomach to shoo them in. Part of the grand Republican strategy for fixing the game while they can involves stacking the courts in their favor. A judge is a lifetime thing. And these cranks are destined to become Supreme Court justices one day. But I think it’s a more personal vendetta that drives the Republicans to attempt to defang the filibuster. It’s the sheer meanness in the right-wing character. For people like Bill ‘Cat Surgeon’ Frist, it is not enough to defeat their enemies. Their enemies must also be silenced. And if there is an opposite of silence in the Senate, it must surely be the filibuster.

BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine.
His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts . Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros . And Mr. Tripp may be reached at credel@earthlink.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail