The Filibuster Is One More Way SLAVERY Continues To Torment America — It HAS TO GO!

It almost always sucks when an unintended consequence punches far above its weight and delivers a knockout blow. That’s the filibuster. This bizarre tactic gives one person — one US Senator — the ability to stop what the majority wants in its tracks. In the 1960’s, Southern Democrats (now known as Republicans — as Heather Cox Richardson writes in her excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” our two parties, the Democrats and Republicans have, in essence, switched names since the Republican Party’s founding in the 1850’s) used the filibuster to block passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Back then, filibusterers were made to actually filibuster. The Senate’s Racist Coalition had to filibuster for 75 hours straight including a 14-hour and 13 minute address by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia (before Byrd had his “come to Jesus” moment and repented his racist ways). The filibuster failed when the Senate invoked cloture for only the second time since 1927. The filibuster is antithetical to democratic governance — that’s why it’s the tool-of-choice of racists.

The filibuster has to go. Screw its giving the minority a voice against a hostile majority. That bullshit celebration of the “rugged individual” standing heroically against the forces of evil is actually a lone racist stemming the tide of equality. Or a handful of racists as with the Southern Democrats. It’s the few holding sway over the many. In America, that always means rich, Christian white men having power far beyond what they’re entitled to. That the filibuster still exists is a quirk of American politics and history. It arises from an accommodation made in 1806 to Aaron Burr — then the Vice President — before he left office. It was never intended to be used for ordinary business; (this is from Wikipedia: “a small number of super-majority requirements were explicitly included in [the Constitution], including conviction on impeachment charges (2/3 of Senate), expelling a member of Congress (2/3 of the chamber in question), overriding presidential vetoes (2/3 of both Houses), ratifying treaties (2/3 of Senate) and proposing constitutional amendments (2/3 of both Houses) — see the Wikipedia article “Filibuster In The US Senate” for footnotes and sources).

By 1846, the Senate tired of even casual abuse of the filibuster “rules” such as they were. This “addition by subtraction” was regularly bringing the Senate and its business to a dead stop while one Senator dead set on having HIS way, got up on his little pegs and spewed until either he got his way or 2/3 of the Senate (finally!) told him to shut the hell up already. Not the point of the exercise.

In the 1970’s, the Senate — trying to have it both ways — voted to keep the filibuster alive but make it more “practical” to apply: just what WAS NOT needed. Now, instead of having to actually get up in the Senate and speak for as long as they possibly could, Senators could now “threaten” to filibuster — and get all the benefits of a filibuster’s obstruction without having to any of the heavy lifting of actually filibustering. How white guy of them!

The fear is that destruction of the filibuster will make most every Senatorial decision a simple majority proposition. That proposition scares conservatives more than it does Progressives.

Let’s remind ourselves — the Senate, like the Electoral College, is, by nature and design unfair. The EC stands between each American voter and the president they vote for. We only pretend to vote for president; the Electoral College is the actual mechanism that picks a POTUS. And make no mistake — the EC exists solely to soothe the furrowed brows of slavers. There has always been dynamic tension in America between the populated, diverse cities — Blue America — and the unpopulated, white-ruled rural parts — Red America. On a map, all that red ink represents real estate way more than it does any people who might live on it.

Imagine a presidential campaign where voters in Ohio or Florida didn’t have the potential to literally decide a presidential contest for the whole country. Think of the undue but very real political weight this gives voters in one state over another — almost always rural over urban. Candidates chase “undecided voters” in specific states because their eye’s on the EC. That’s why they’ll go to diners in Iowa and listen to farmers like they were sages. Hey, they might indeed be very bright people with smart things to say. But how they vote should have far less impact on my life than it does just as how I vote should have less impact on theirs.

That the farmer’s vote matters more than mine at present — that’s a problem. The Senate’s design exacerbates it. Again, by design, rural voters get hyper-represented while urban voters get hypo-represented. Wyoming’s 445,000 voters get two US Senators. Same goes for California’s 45 MILLION voters. Each Wyomingite has a far better chance of getting their Senator on the phone — and doing what THEY need than any Californian does (unless they’re super rich). So, a sheep rancher in Wyoming stands a better shot at seeing his needs legislated than a Black single mom in Los Angeles who’s struggling to pay her bills. Such is equality in a system designed to deliver the opposite.

Fixing the Senate is a Big Job that will take a super majority of Democrats to accomplish. Don’t pooh-pooh the possibility. In “normal times”, the coming off year election in 2022 (and why the hell is anyone thinking about THAT already?) would advantage the party OUT OF power because the party IN POWER screwed up. But — cue the “Breaking News” banner — these aren’t “normal times”. The first job the Democrats now controlling the reins of power must accomplish is to undo as much of the damage Trump did as possible. That’s not the Democrats being political. That’s the Democrats GOVERNING.

Our news media — drunk off their asses on the “Both Sides Do It” kool aid — have convinced themselves and half of America that anything anyone does is motivated first by politics. This isn’t just cynical, it’s flat out wrong. They now think that both sides behave the same way and for the exact same reasons. Oy. Just… oy. Before the Democrats can even think about putting forward their “socialist wet dreams”, they FIRST have to solve the pandemic. Do that, they can solve the economy. In between all of that, the Democrats have to deal with the fact that the GOP just sponsored a coup d’etat against the rest of us.

And, on top of THAT, the Democrats have to deal with the fact that the entire Republican Party either participated in multiple acts of treason or stood by while treason and traitors threatened America. Countries that allow traitors to walk free will not be countries for very much longer. The traitors will see to it.

Right now, Mitch McConnell — our Treason Turtle MINORITY LEADER — is attempting to keep the filibuster alive both to protect racism but also to protect the traitors in his party. The fact that racists, bigots and seditionists would benefit — well, to Mitch, that’s all just icing. Odds are, if Mitch McConnell is FOR something? That something is rotten. Or Mitch is doing it for rotten reasons.

Repeat: the filibuster has to go. The people defending it have to disabused of their bullshit excuses (history, fairness, the tyranny of the majority) and made to fess up: they are standing in the majority’s way mostly because they’re racist — and keeping racism alive in America is more important to them than almost anything.

Necessary Trouble

Courage is a mysterious thing. You can’t buy it. If you have it, you can’t save it till you need it. You have to rely on the fact that your courage will be there — and that there will be enough of it — at the moment you really, really need it.

Maybe, as with John Lewis, you’re born with it. Or, maybe as John Lewis taught, it’s something can cultivate in yourself.

John Lewis died last night. He taught us so much — and had so much more still to impart. Even when he spurred us to action, he did it in a way that understood both what he was really asking of us and how we might best understand what we were really doing.

“My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right. Not fair. Not just. Say something. Do something. Get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.” –

Representative John Lewis

Say something. Do something. Get in trouble.

Good trouble.

Necessary trouble.

Good trouble is the moral imperative to fight what’s wrong. Necessary trouble is the act of engagement — of putting your ass (or your head — as John Lewis did) on the line. If a thing is necessary, it takes away any moral equivocating. You have to do it. It’s necessary (not just “good”).

The day John Lewis’ skull got fractured by Alabama State Police, he knew from previous experience that things could get violent. Deadly even. But the necessity of changing America overrode everything. It demanded Necessary Trouble.

It’s our obligation to carry John Lewis’ hopes for America forward. The Black Lives Matter protests aren’t the culmination of necessary trouble, they’re the process of necessary trouble producing its desired outcome. In a way, it’s like a glacier carving out a mountain as it flows downward. It’s a long, long grind.

America’s latent racism has become blatant. That cannot stand. We owe it to ourselves to make America live up to its ideals — if only for the first time.

That’s white people I’m talking about. Black people, brown people, native people, Asian people — any people not strictly White – they’ve always lived up to America’s ideals because they actually believe in them. They actually believe that all people are created equal before the law.

White people need to own a hard, painful truth about ourselves: we tolerated racism because we benefited from racism.

That can’t be.

We must confront it head on — in an act of necessary trouble.

In A Way, The Rule Of Law Is “Do Unto Others” With Teeth

The genius of our Constitution for all its failings — and it’s got some serious failings (it gave all the political power to white men and we’re still dealing with slavery ffs) — is its establishment of the Rule Of Law as its organizing principle. The bottom line for law-making isn’t the whim of some Donald-Trump-like king, it’s a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that go to great lengths to spell out what we can — and cannot — do to each other.

Put another way, the Rule Of Law describes what we can and cannot “do unto each other”.

Do something unto your neighbor that you legally shouldn’t (like, say, murder her?) — the Law will do unto you. The Law — striving for fairness (and wanting to give each of us the chance to do the right thing) — doesn’t look to see what’s in our hearts unless we violate the Rule Of Law. And then it wants to know “why?”

In asking “why” we broke the Rule Of Law, the Law wants to prescribe a cure — not just for the crime itself but for the motivation. Did you kill someone deliberately or accidentally? That’s an important distinction. And if you killed someone deliberately, was violating their rights part of your goal — because violating someone else’s rights is as bad as stealing from their house. You took something of theirs that was theirs. In other words — killing someone is one crime and killing them because of who they are — a thing they have the right to be — is another crime.

You didn’t just kill them, you killed their right to be them.

The overwhelming majority of us want the Rule Of Law standing between us. Our problem isn’t with the Rule Of Law after all, it’s with its unequal application. Like integrity, the Rule Of Law is an all or nothing proposition. You can walk around with 99% of your integrity intact, but eventually that 1% will catch up to you. It won’t say 1%. Corruption grows with coronavirus ferocity. Just like a virus, corruption reproduces inside of us; it needs to infect our cells so completely that we spew its darkness, infecting others.

And a lot of that infection goes on undetected. It’s the most dangerous part of the iceberg, lurking under the surface.

The majority of us want others to do unto us as we do unto them. We want to be treated fairly because we want everyone to be treated fairly and we want everyone to be treated fairly because we want to be treated fairly.

As I often say here, devout atheist though I am, I consider myself a big Fan Of Jesus. He is not the church that Paul built out of the idea of Jesus — the idea of Jesus as Messiah as opposed to Jesus as Teacher with a simple but profound message (Do Unto Others). Even a simple atheist like myself can manage to Do Unto Others without hurting ourselves — or compromising ourselves.

The moral outrage we all feel now like our skin was on fire is our “Do Unto Other” way of thinking colliding with hypocrisy. The people clutching onto power have always preached “Do Unto Others” without every practicing it themselves. Actually, they practice their own perverse offshoot — “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

One place where the Rule Of Law differs slightly with Jesus is in its approach to “turning the other cheek”. The Rule Of Law says that if someone violated the Rule Of Law at your expense, you don’t have to turn the other cheek. You don’t get to seek revenge on them but you do get to instruct them — by pointing out in great detail what they did wrong — what that will cost them in time and heartache and financial loss — and how they might get better (so as not to do it again). Being human, we haven’t gotten everything about the Rule Of Law right.

As we know — we still haven’t gotten anywehre close to applying it equally.

But, as Jesus would have us do — we strive to be better. No one — Jesus included — ever said doing unto others was easy.