Originally published on The Huffington Post 4/19/13
Listening to President Obama’s angry diatribe against the gun lobby Wednesday night, you’d think the Senate majority failed to pass his modest legislation.The president railed against those who trumped the 90 percent of Americans who favored gun control, and he assailed individual senators for not meeting “the test.” But the outrage was not that a majority of the Senate had defeated the overwhelming majority of the American people who embraced background checks; it was that a 45 member minority had defeated the 55 member (substantial) majority that had actually “passed” the legislation — if majority rule had been in effect. The Senate agreed with the American majority: both went down to defeat at the hands of a rabid, deeply undemocratic minority abusing Senate rules.
The problem is with the filibuster, and its evolution from a sometime instrument of supposedly very special causes that occasionally merit slowing down a fast-moving and reckless majority into the everyday recourse of reckless minorities who hold democracy itself in contempt.
The Senate had the chance to change the rules at the opening of the current Congress (when it can alter its own rules by majority consent), but did not. The Democratic majority presumably once again worried that it might one day be in the minority and might want to avail itself of the blunt instrument now being used against it by the Republicans. Continue reading