MINORITY RULE

MINORITY RULE: Senator Zell Miller rails against the filibuster in a WSJ op-ed:

The Senate is the only place I know where 59 votes out of 100 cannot pass anything because 41 votes out of 100 can defeat it. Last week, and again on Thursday, 55 senators–a clear majority–voted to end a filibuster against Mr. Estrada and still lost the day. Try explaining that at your local Rotary Club or to a constituent in the Wal-Mart parking lot or, for that matter, to the college freshman in Poly Sci 101. You can’t because it stands democracy on its head.

While I agree with him about the merits of the practice, and agree that the institution violates the Constitution, I would hope anyone who has taken Intro to American Government–or, indeed, graduated high school–would be aware that the filibuster exists. And, as conservatives are fond of pointing out, we don’t live in a democracy. The Senate, even without the filibuster, is undemocratic, given that Miller’s vote counts as much as Barbara Boxer’s, despite the latter representing many times more people. Used sparingly–on highly controversial legislation that would radically alter the social contract–the filibuster would be defensible as another check in our federalist, republican system. But if it is used for even routine matters like appellate court nominees, then it indeed turns the system on its head.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.