Friday, May 20, 2005

What’s Wrong With Going Nuclear?

Farhad Manjoo at wonders if maybe banning the filibuster isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Republicans may not be wrong to want to eliminate the filibuster, and Democrats have nothing to lose by letting the GOP win this one. The filibuster is, after all, one of the more anti-democratic parliamentary maneuvers in the federal government’s most undemocratic body, the Senate. A tactic not envisioned by the founders, and most famously used by Southern racists to frustrate the passage of civil rights legislation, the filibuster doesn’t exactly have a savory tradition.

More than that, the filibuster is no friend to Democrats, whose policies, if not politicians, appeal to a majority of the American public. They may be in the minority now, but Democrats can win again. They can take the Senate and they can take the White House, possibly both, possibly soon. When that day comes, you can be sure Republicans will use the filibuster in the same way that Democrats are using it today. Wouldn’t it make sense to take that option away from the GOP now, when they’re agitating for the change — and then, in the future, to hoist them with their own petard?

It’s an intriguing idea, and one I’ve heard batted around before, but as long as Godwin’s law is off the table, appeasing the Republicans at this juncture is like Neville Chamberlain in 1938 saying, “oh, let Germany take back part of Czechoslovakia…that will make them happy and we’ll be able to control them when they try for something really important.” And if that means we have to allow for a Chief Justice Clarence Thomas because at some point — 2008 or later — the Democrats might be in the majority again, well, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.