It is Time
We have been the recipients of hundreds of opinions and commentaries which have, as their basic premise, the notion that the agenda of progressive change that was endorsed by at least 53% of the American electorate a little more than a year ago is now permanently stalled with barely a pulse and certainly no vital signs that indicate imminent recovery. Very wise “talking heads” tell us that without a “filibuster proof” 60 vote supermajority in the United States Senate, there is simply no way that legislation dealing with health care, climate change, the rights of gays in the military, financial services regulation will ever be passed and ready for President Obama’s signature.
It is clear that even the mere specter of a filibuster is enough to shutter the windows and bolt the doors of Congress. The threat of a filibuster has been portrayed as the harbinger of doom and destruction to the legislative process as we know it. Given the propensity of the more progressive elements of the United States Congress to quake in their boots at the mere sound of “filibu……..” one would think that neither Congress nor this country could survive a filibuster. History, as usual, teaches us a very different lesson.
The filibuster, the method by which a minority in the Senate can delay and even prevent a final vote on legislation or executive nominations has been used hundreds of times by both parties. It has been used most infamously by Southern Democrats in the first half of the twentieth century in order to block civil rights and anti-lynching legislation. More recently it has been used by both parties to hold up legislation and executive appointments. In almost every instance a compromise has been reached in the modern era of the filibuster.
So if the Republican Party wants to be seen, widely seen, on C-Span and Fox News and CNN as the obstructing force, countering health care and climate change legislation, why not grant them the courtesy? I personally want to see John McCain and Olympia Snow and John Kyl reading from phone books and newspapers at three in the morning, all in the name of their monosyllabic policy of “No”. “No” to anything progressive, “no” to anything proposed by the Obama legislation.
Let the Republicans be truly on the record as rejecting bipartisanship in favor of reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times commodities indices and whatever else they can come up with in the name of thwarting the will of the people. This is not a bad outcome.
As noted, in most instances filibusters in the modern era have resulted in compromise. In these days and times a compromise on health care or climate change would be a welcome alternative to inaction and inertia. If the Republicans choose to obstruct, then let them read the Farmer’s Almanac day and night, let them drone on as they read The Iliad followed by War and Peace. And at the end of this shameful exercise perhaps the inveterate obstructionist strategy that they have pursued will be revealed to be as bankrupt as the individuals and businesses that are picking through the shards of their present as they hope to reconstruct a future that will be no better than the past without true change.
In the meantime we can be hopeful that the Democratic leadership in the Congress, and the White House, will now understand that it is time to take a stand. It is time to stop moving laterally and backwards in the hope of reconciliation and bipartisanship. Let the opposition, loyal or disloyal, show itself in its full glory. Let them find dignity reading railroad timetables in the middle of the night while the American people long for action and assistance. Let them find reason in reading tidal records to an empty chamber while children long for hope and while their parents wonder when their dreams stopped coming true.
Indeed it is the time for change. Indeed it is the time for hope. Indeed it is time for the opposition to be granted the opportunity to reveal themselves in full. If there are to filibusters — now is the time.
It is Time