The Filibuster Problem

We are seeing a concerted effort by the Democratic party to remove the ability of the other side to utilize the filibuster to fight against legislation. There are a lot of reasons why this is a very dangerous path to walk, not the least of which has to do with the constantly shifting political landscape. It seems like the further we move forward into history, the more we forget what happened and the more we flirt with repeating the mistakes we made before.

The filibuster is an important tool in our legislative process. It provides a voice to the minority segments of Congress, allowing them to voice objections to proposed laws that would unfairly impose new rules on a segment of the population that would find them unreasonable. By having the ability to stand up and force the opposition to at least hear the objections to a bill, it allows a form of representation for every group of Americans, regardless of who is in power.

Most people in America hear the word democracy and imagine that is how our system of government is set up. In reality, a pure democracy is one of the most dangerous forms of because it keeps in place exactly the sort of dangerous dynamics that allows dictatorial regimes to flourish. All a group has to do is establish a basic majority in the system and they retain the ability to force their viewpoints onto the rest of the population. This is referred to as the “tyranny of the majority“.

In reality, America is a republic, which is similar to a democracy but with several very distinct differences that are intentionally put in place to prevent tyranny by majority. The rules of our government are set up in such a way that no one group can change the way the country runs all by itself. It requires not only a majority vote, but also specific steps that are intentionally designed to be difficult to overcome specifically because, if the change will be forced on any group of people, it should be universally agreed that the imposition is necessary.

One of the reasons that the filibuster is so important to our system of government is because it provides an additional roadblock to the legislative process. Our natural instinct is to view this as a waste of time that prevents things from getting done, but the truth is that many roadblocks are necessary in order to have a government that creates laws that are worth having. If the new law is good enough to get through all the hurdles set out in front of it, then it becomes reasonable to believe that the law is probably a good one that will last.

Where we have run into trouble is that in our desperation to get our agendas pushed forward, we have continually tried to find ways of circumventing the safeguards placed into our system. Both sides of the aisle have participated in attempts to change the process of legislation to make it easier for their specific agenda to make it through the process unaltered. It always seems like a good idea at the time because the issue seems so critical, but it carries with it a fatal flaw: the fluidity of our political system.

When we are so focused on the issue of the day and we have the power to do something about it, we tend to forget that no one group ever stays in power forever. In just a few years, our group will be dethroned as the country shifts perspective to try another path. Our leadership has shifted back and forth from Republican to Democrat and back again numerous times even in our most recent history. The power will be in the hands of the other guy not too far from now.

Changing major parts of our legislative process with the sole intent of cramming our plans down the throats of the other side is terribly shortsighted, as it opens the door to that specific tactic being used against us in the future. When we start thinking about changing the process to make it easier to get laws passed, it is critical that we consider how it might be used against us in the future. Sacrificing the future for the sake of the present is something that many politicians argue about when it comes to things like climate change, but somehow start forgetting about when it comes to passing legislation.

It is important that we take great care to make it clear to our government that removing the filibuster is a bad idea. You can start by reaching out to your state representatives to let them know that you disagree with this tactic. The most important thing we can do as citizens is to voice our concerns regarding the dangerous ideas that our elected officials flirt with to make sure they understand that making bad decisions will not be met kindly. It is up to us to keep them honest.

What do you think about the filibuster? Is it a valuable tool, or an unnecessary roadblock? What reasons can you think of to keep it or remove it? Many of us don’t spend enough time paying attention to what our government is doing, but we can start becoming more involved today by simply sending an email. As the saying goes: you get out what you put in. Are you putting in anything?

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