Saturday, January 08, 2005


Tyranny of the Minority: The Endless Republican Filibuster

Why, these letters are all IDENTICAL COPIES!
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Publius, this last week, chose to ventilate the issue of the threatened rule change in the Senate which would disallow the per se filibuster (AKA, the 'nuclear option'); in the process, he neatly baited some righteous Christian Soldiers into full battle-mode in his comment area (jumping, as they were, to the defense of that nice Dr. Frist with the good bloodlines ). Their argument is predictably legalistic AND moralistic: the idea of a filibuster is morally abhorrent, you see, because it's a tyranny of the minority (notice that their argument is the other way around when they themselves are in the minority: the questions change, but the answers never do. Exactly like the Bush tax cuts). Their objections to the New Deal are similarly 'adjustable': it's not the programs themselves they object to, necessarily (wink, wink), just the way they were justified legally via the Commerce Clause. Riiiight. That explains the red-faced fury, alright. Pub also gets to the heart of that matter this week, with his ruminations on the difference between an advocate and an analyst (or 'empiricist'). He makes the extremely important point that it matters what kind of lawyer you are; to be a good advocate, you yourself have to know all the actual facts. These Soldiers are salesmen/advocates, and change their arguments like they change their socks. As I've said elsewhere, this phenomenon is a big reason women have historically despised men: that unreachable emotional obtuseness, an ignorance of self so complete as to be laughable, but not that funny. It's basically justifying what you want to do anyway with a big, nerdy, abstract rationalization, the more abstract the better. (Not that women never do anything like that, but men have perfected it.) It's also why people hate lawyers and might even think they want 'Tort Reform'. Moral relativism. Slippery!

This is no deep insight, obviously, but: what is the primary MO of the modern GOP surge since Newt? The Filibuster-style. What are El Rushbo and his ilk but filibusterers? Remember the talking heads whipping the Clinton Whitewater/impeachment, etc. stuff into a frenzy? How did they do it? By talking louder, including shouting people down; by running out the clock; finally, by simply yelling 'shut up!'. And on and on it still goes - you can tune in anytime and hear Sean Hannity reading a phonebook of talking points, hour after hour, day after day.

I know that this 'tyranny of the minority' stuff is transient; we'll get some new 'passionate' argument for the next thing soon. But I don't mind taking note when sheer irony squeezes and oozes through the cracks: the modern GOP insurgency is nothing if not a tyranny of the minority.

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