Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Filibuster and the Compromise

I don't know why it's taken me so long to write something about the filibuster. There's really nothing more fascinating than the arcane inner workings of the Senate. The filibuster, literally "blowhole," is the adult equivalent of holding your breath until you turn blue, but, rather than ignore you, everyone else is obliged to wait and see if you do really take a breath or if you pass out and fall flat on your face. No one even knew there was such a thing until James Cagney popularized the filbuster in a stirring scene in Casablanca. Since then, the rules have been changed somewhat. Now you don't actually have to hold your breath. You just have to threaten to do it if someone brings up a subject you don't want to talk about. It's now evolved into the adult version of sticking your fingers in your ears and going, "LALALALALALALALA. I can't hear you!"

Of course, the current controversy all started because the Repubs had a good year last year. Dear Leader was elected by a mandate of one state. He called this "political capital," but instead of paying down his personal deficit, decided to spend some more. In a move that made sore winners everywhere proud, he nominated a few religious wingnuts and a corporate stooge or two to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. In the spirit of opposing judicial activism, he nominated the right kind of judicial activists. James Dobson and the other moderate voices in the Republican Party applauded this bold initiative. Of course, it helped that the people of the United States, in their "infinite wisdom," also elected a few more Repub wingnuts to the Senate and the House to ease us through this difficult transition. The Dems reasonably responded that they've confirmed most of Dear Leader's nominations, but the Repubs, sore winners all, responded, "We want them all confirmed, damn it!" The Dems responded with the only options left at their disposal, the filibuster and shooting spitwads at Senator Frist.

The Repubs, all reading from the same script, are the voice of reasonableness and All-American values. What, they say, could be fairer than a straight up or down vote. (There's a good drinking game. Take a sip of some really hard liquor everytime you hear a Repub say "straight up or down vote." Then call the paramedics and tell them you're suffering from alcohol poisoning.) And, of course, the Repubs have always felt this way about the "straight up or down vote." All the way back through the misty mists of time. All the way back to the last presidency. A "straight up or down vote" was not exactly all the rage when President Bill "Blow Hole" Clinton was the one doing the nominating. But all the Repubs had political epiphanies, sort of a "Road to Damascus" experience around 2001 or so. And the Dems, the former "straight up or down vote" party became the "LALALALALALA" party. The Repubs threatened to invoke what they were calling the "nuclear option" (until they found out that the term wasn't polling all that well - sort of like "privatization.") The Dems threatened to grind the work of the Senate to a halt (as if anyone could tell.) The people, suffering from a little buyers' remorse, and not really recognizing a good blowhole when they see one, have nonetheless decided that maybe it's not really a good idea to give Dear Leader everything he asks for.

So now we have a compromise, sort of a Crittenden Compromise for our time, proving that Jim Hightower was right when he observed that "there's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos." The wingnuts on the right aren't happy. They're suddenly Al Pacino in Driving Mrs. Daisy: "We coulda been contenders. We coulda had it all." The Dems aren't happy either. They promise not to filibuster the wingnut, the corporate stooge, and the doofus. In return, the filibuster is saved for use in "special circumstances," such as when Dear Leader nominates Rush Limbaugh to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court or James Dobson to be the poet laureate or John Bolton to be the ambassador to the United Nations.

Personally, I believe compromises are for wimps. (Don't believe me? Look at the gang of miscreants who came up with this one.) I was really hoping this brouhaha, literally "big blowhole," would play itself out. I was hoping the Repubs would do away with the filibuster and the Dems would close down the Senate for a few reasons. First, like the bull and bear markets and the rise and fall of the New York Yankees, what goes around, comes around, especially in politics. Sooner or later (and probably a lot sooner than most right-wingers think), the people, in their "infinite wisdom," will vote this group of nimrods out and replace them with a whole new group of dimwits. Second, as I said before, if they shut down the Senate would anyone notice? Third, would anyone care? It's not like people would stop getting their checks or be unable to tour the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth National Memorial Park. And if the Bankruptcy Bill, Social Security "Reform," Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and the Energy Bill (otherwise known as the Oil Company Handout Reorganization Act) is the best they can do, I say, "Close that sucker down." Nebraska's done fine with a unicameral legislature for quite a while. Of course, they don't have Tom DeLay or Denny Hastert.

But cooler (and wimpier) heads have prevailed. A "straight up or down vote" on the corporate stooge will happen soon. Life goes on, the wheels of justice grind slowly, all good things come to those who wait, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The work of the Senate (such as it is) continues...until the next blowhole comes along.


At 10:28 PM, Blogger cvc said...

Compromnise is indeed for wimps...I'm just wondering what the heck defines "extreme circumstance"...seems like Bush's candidates were already extreme and now, with no clear definition of the term, Repubs can scream "extreme" whenever they want to; moreover, they can do so to claim the Dems didn't hold up their end of the bargain and perhaps use that as an excuse to do away with the filibuster.


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