Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Paralyzed Government

I believe that part of social justice is advocating for policy changes with and on behalf of the least, last and lost. However, history shows that social change comes slowly and with considerable effort. Its rare that the powerful will voluntarily make sacrifices when they may not see an immediate benefit.

However, social change has gotten much more difficult in the last three years with the advent of the constant filibuster. Though this supermajority requirement has been invoked over the years, the idea that every piece of legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate is a recent phenomenon. Ezra Klein, a blogger for the Washington Post, demonstrates this:

Here's a fun fact: The Senate filed 214 cloture votes (votes to break a filibuster) between 2007 and 2010. That's more than it held between 1919 and 1976. And during that period, it was actually easier to filibuster, as you needed 67 votes to break the obstruction, not 60.

Meanwhile, you'll note that 2010 is only a couple of months old. By the end of the year, we'll be nearing 300 cloture votes, if we haven't passed that milestone altogether. That brings the 2007-10 total to about what the Senate saw between 1919 and 1984. Say what you will about the Senate, but this is not traditional. The "cooling saucer" of democracy was never meant to be left in the freezer.
Thus, for those who want to advocate for the poor, one of our tasks will be to determine how to change this trend. It is not enough to count on individual Senators playing nice. We must advocate changing the rules so that no matter who is in power, we play by majority rules. Now, I may not like everything that gets passed in this new environment- but I’m quite confident that those who have power won’t have nearly the trouble getting 60 votes as those who do not have it. Thus, in the long run, eliminating the filibuster will serve the cause of justice.

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