Hypocrisy and the Filibuster

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2021

For the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie writes about the history of the filibuster in the Senate and how it (unsurprisingly) differs from Mitch McConnell’s comments about it.

The truth is that the filibuster was an accident; an extra-constitutional innovation that lay dormant for a generation after its unintentional creation during the Jefferson administration. For most of the Senate’s history after the Civil War, filibusters were rare, deployed as the Southern weapon of choice against civil rights legislation, and an occasional tool of partisan obstruction.

Far from necessary, the filibuster is extraneous. Everything it is said to encourage — debate, deliberation, consensus building — is already accomplished by the structure of the chamber itself, insofar as it happens at all.

In the form it takes today, the filibuster doesn’t make the Senate work the way the framers intended. Instead, it makes the Senate a nearly insurmountable obstacle to most legislative business. And that, in turn, has made Congress inert and dysfunctional to the point of disrupting the constitutional balance of power.

I’d like to highlight something else from the article’s title and reiterated in the text by Bouie: “I’m not actually that interested in McConnell’s hypocrisy.” Yes, exactly. I see a lot of calling-out of the hypocrisies of “the other side”1 on social media and it just seems worthless to me at this point. This sort of thing just doesn’t work when you’re dealing with people who are cynical and without shame in a very polarized media environment. Like, if you’ve read anything about McConnell at all, you know that he cares about power and he’s going to say what he needs to say to get it or keep it, regardless of self-contradiction. Pointing out his flip-flops doesn’t accomplish anything because he’s not actually switching his position! He didn’t really believe the thing he said before and he doesn’t really believe the thing he’s saying now. He just wants what he wants. Focusing on the facts and historical context of the issue, as Bouie does here (and in his explanation of the Electoral College on You’re Wrong About), is the way to go.

  1. Examples: “The ‘pro life’ party did nothing while 400,000 people died from the pandemic.” and “If you’re ‘pro choice’, why do you want to limit the 2nd amendment right of people to carry guns?” Etc. etc.