Thursday, January 21, 2010

A REAL governing party wouldn’t need 60 votes

The Democrats were elected to govern, but they’re not governing.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, civil rights legislation was doomed by Southern Democrats’ filibusters. Strom Thurmond held the Senate floor for over 24 hours straight, filibustering against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which eventually passed. But filibusters and cloture motions—the vote to close debate—were rare: never more than seven motions filed in any two-year session until 1971. But now it’s received wisdom that it takes 60 votes to pass any bill in the Senate.
Pity the poor Democrats. They’ve had 60 Senators in their caucus. If they got all sixty into the Senate chamber—including poor 92-year old Bobby Byrd slouching in his wheelchair—they could get a matter like health care brought to a vote. But with Tuesday’s Massachusetts election they’re down to 59.
And there’s a lot of anger in the country. Tea partiers are angry that Obama is seizing the economy to socialize it. Progressives and independents in Massachusetts—far larger in number—just demonstrated their anger that the Dems, with a huge majority in both houses—256-178 in the House and now 59-41 in the Senate, aren’t getting things done.
The Dems need to make Americans angry at the Republicans, not at them. Back in the bad old days of Senators Bilbo and Thurmond, southerners actually filibustered: they read telephone books, the Bible, the comic pages, etc. Their pro-segregation constituents loved them for it, but most Americans hated what they were doing and turned against them.
By contrast, today's Dems quietly accept that 60 votes are needed in the Senate. The Reps don't have to actually filibuster, reading telephone books on national television.. If they did they’d become laughing stocks:, the public's anger would turn on them for denying democracy, instead of turning against the Dems for incompetence.

Time for the Dems to get serious. Or else, paraphrasing Lincoln’s plea to General McClellan, “If they’re not planning to use the majority, the Republicans would like to take it back.”

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