« The Weeds

The definitive case against the filibuster


Ezra joins Matt to workshop his latest article — and save American democracy.


Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox

Ezra Klein (@ezraklein), Editor-at-large, Vox


Jeff Geld, (@jeff_geld), Editor and Producer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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hello. Welcome to another episode of the West on the box media podcast network, I'm at Glacius, I'm here with as reclined we're going to do something a little bit different today, but right before we got into it. I did want to mention this will be your very last chance to get in on the weeds white paper lottery. If you want to pre order a copy of one billion Americans, that's my book. It's about why there should be one billion Americans, then you tweet a picture of your proof of purchase at me. So I see it, you will be entered into a drawing if you win you will get to select the White paper of the week that myself and era and Jane will discuss it's a lot of fun, it's cool, but speaking of fun. We want to talk at the filibuster and do it in a little bit of a different way one bit and priorities.
Similarly, here I've got a familiar, and you know what's its realistic, yeah? That's that's got you want you want. You want, had achievable goals so. This is gonna, be, has not set a limit different without be fun to do it this way, so I've been working. Nobody knows who listens to the show that I am obsessed with the filibuster that I think it is there is no single decision that if Democrats win the White House and Senate in twenty twenty. There is no single decision. They will make, they will decide. As much of what happens to their governing agenda as whether not day choose to abolish or otherwise change the filibuster if they do not agenda. Most of it is dead. There are a couple things through budget reconciliation, but the vast majority of things they want to do, they cannot do. They will not have the votes or anywhere close to it. I'm in
Joe Biden for all of his personal charm is not yet able to get Republicans to sign on to anything of this scale that he has promised. So if they leave the filibustering place their agenda most for the most part, is dead. The odds. Are they will leave the filibustering place the odds are that just like happens every year, the fear of change, will overwhelm the fear of leaving climate change. I'm sitting here in California, where the skies Red right now and- Almost every other problem. America and the world faces to faster. So I've been working on a big piece trying to pick up this debate and and it more directly I and as often happens when I write big pieces, I sent them to match for four thoughts, not to a very good editor and very good at putting out the weaknesses. So I sent this piece to him, but rather than do these thoughts in a normal editing process, we're going we're talk here on the weeds, so the structure of my piece, so people know this should come out next week or the week after maybe is
I want to unearth every major argument that people make for the filibuster I wanted. I want to take seriously the case for why it is a good thing to have in American, in the american political system and assess each argument on the merits and try to decide. It is an argument that is good, and we should believe is it an argument that is reasonable and people should decide if they agree with the trade off or frankly, as is the case with a lot of the arguments that swirl in this debate Is it an argument that is outright wrong and should be discarded so Matt has this monstrous eight thousand plus word piece. So what do you think? I think it's really good. I think this is incredibly important topic. It's a different approach right, it's very calm! It's not a screed against the filibuster which is good because for those of us who have been thinking about this for a long time, psych is alive infuriating- and I think you do a good job of staying calm and taking people through it
I also thought something that was really strong in it. That I hope we can talk about here- is that you, You should have foreground how. Ah this is right that the United States measures to filibuster itself, which comes about through a curious history but contextual eyes, in terms of a political system that, in general, just like makes it more difficult to legislate and I I hope you can sort of explain- that- to people cuz. I think it's really important. So this is something that I actually came across working on the research for this piece. There's a piece for two thousand and nine by Alfred Step on the one Linz and it's actually a review of a couple of different books on american democracy, but something they do in the peace. Is they look at its twenty two countries, including America and assess how many electoral degenerated veto players each country has so how many, instead to regional actors,
who are voted into office in some way or another by the people. Does each country have who can stop a major change from happening and the reason this is imported before this is not linking it to filibuster, a direct way at all. What this is simply asking is: how difficult is it to act and different political systems, and in this is really striking, because people have this idea, like the Senate, is cooling democracy and that's about the filibuster and so on, and that if we somehow got rid of us, majority requirement in the? U S, Senate that american politics would fall to the quota, quote tyranny of the majority on, and this is just raw So of the twenty two other poor nations is twenty three countries there looking at in total, more than half of the countries in the only only had one veto point at all. It is the minister Does majority in the lower legislative chamber only one electoral degenerated veto point another set. Point five had to veto points. The raising of appointing
I've. Is it France has these two states, thereby political system can be an who called cohabitation which met explain back to the night and that that's seven point five had two veto players. Then there are only two. Countries in the sample with three electoral generated veto players- and there is- one country of the twenty three with four and that's America, and by the way when and they say for they're, not counting the Supreme Court, which they don't count as a electorally generated veto player, they're, counting the house they're, counting the Senate, they're, counting the president and they're counting the states, because in order to change the constitution in America, You need to have the state signing on and those are through the state legislatures and that's an electoral generated veto player by their definition. So if you before you get into- Anything else going on in our system before you get into the filibuster before you get into the Supreme Court, we have a system of checks and balances and
institutions that have simultaneous democratic legitimacy from different democratic electorates or sometimes non democratic electorates. We have a really difficult system in which to do anything. The point of the Stepan and Lens piece is it. This is a generator of inequality that there's a relation between systems in which it is harder to act and the rise of economic inequality. But just putting even out aside what I think they should tell you is it. America's political system is very hard to govern within, with or without the filibuster. My argument in pieces to filibuster, ads Level, difficulty on this. It takes it from very hard which was intended to functionally possible in normal circumstances, which was not intended. There's no world here, we're gonna be moving to some. Sue the easier, easier wrangle political system to me. That's critical context. He read it
If you move the Senate to Pure Majoritarianism, the United States would still be compared to most other. You know well establish, Democracy is a system with a high number of veto players and a high degree of policy stability, and you know people can sort debate the merits of policy stability and veto players. But we are in extreme outlier right now and even with the sort of reform that you favour would continue to be a pretty significant outlier, so the king of the sort of cooling saucer concept, it's not is up that a supermajority requirements, sort of exacerbates or enhances cooling series but is at least questionable whether that's really sort of necessary. Why think I may be disagree with your analysis I want I want. I want the disagreements right, which is so something you say: you're sort of going through different arguing,
here- and one thing you mention is that you think this is kind of ideologically neutral right and that ere you know, is no sort of systemic advantage that one person or another gets. But I read a long time ago, a book by a guy named George Seblas called veto players how political institutions work and it's this kind of formal political science thing is written in two thousand and two, but he shows with some different kinds of math that basically countries that have more veto players, which the United States has a lot of, have more policy stability, and they have various kinds of characteristics. His conclusion actually sound similar to that what you said about inequality, except he cast in a more favourable way, which is that countries more veto players have more stable property rights.
He says and more state ball there more immune to sort of macro economic populism and then Michael Munger, whose Libertarian an economist he wrote a sort of review of symbols, books that I was just looking up again as we were preparing for this- and he says, like you know like this- is great. It's great, that America has veto players, but really what we should have done was adopted Chauncey Calhoun constitutional proposals cut Calhoun wanted to say that we need to make a dvd players even more cumbersome in the United States and his idea was: he wanted to basically make it impossible for the federal government just laid against slavery, and some Lib, Harry and scholars should be clear. There not saying that slavery is good, but they're, saying that that impulse is correct, that it would provide stronger protections for private property rights, which would create more sort of
prosperity and stability over the long haul and to me this conflict over the filibuster. I mean, if you talk to senators. They get into a lot of sort of Senate nonsense about everything, but it does, I think, come down to this question of the strength of property rights versus the possibilities of activists government, which I think is a quite serious ideological implications, and that, in turn is one of the reasons why it's hard to me. Change? I let me think about this for a second so suited to cast. Some of the arguments of dealing with here is a little bit more. One of the things I ve dealing with in both directions is the idea that the help us either getting rid of. It will either advantage Democrats because, where I would find that argument is ledge.
And being able to act within the context of american government is inherently a progressive act. Conservative simply want to do They want to stand athwart, the government yelling stop, and that is something That gridlock government is very good for doing, whereas making it simpler to do things just going to mean Democrats at our better healthcare system. They pass climate change, bills, etc, etc. On the other, I'd be getting the filibuster might advantage Republican simply because they send it in its current composition, has her. Can win because of the way the american political parties are distributed across states and small states tend to be whiter, they tend to be more native or they tend to be more republican, and so that that could be waned, which helps republican someone a flag that cause it might be worth coming back to value attention here. The word, it is, I don't think the fill it getting rid of it buster, is neutral in the current context.
That would be going too far, and I agree with what you're saying it's that I I want to be careful, a piece like this this about predicting what the future is there any move of this severity in american government. Just a history of anything like it is sequences are not going to be what people expect it just will not be the case that it just goes in one direction. And so the thing I say in the peace which I think is true- is that there is There's a good argument that if you take the theory of conservatism that you will hear expressed at panels at the Heritage Foundation, seriously just making the government more capable of governing and the citing is going to tell progresses because they pass more legislation, they have more legislation, they want to pass and, in addition, a lot of public. Wanna do tax cuts getting rid of government programmes. You do some doubt you bunch of reconciliation anyway, but I dont think the Republican Party is that thing. I think that is
something you here on panels with the heritage Foundation and not actually in governance, and I think it's also changing pretty rapidly and so I imagine a world where there is a future ethno. The republican party that has more fully built an ethnic, nationalist ideology and governing agenda like dominant ran on that kind of thing: the sort of populist nationalism, but you did govern in that direction, really at all die. He governess sort of a plutocrat who tweets. I was sitting at the nationals flavour, but could imagine in these get up some kind of future. Success. It may be Donald Trump Junior. Who actually have a lot more to say on this raid like who would want to pass bills, unleashing police officers and protecting the suburbs and regulating immigration. You know even more other. The president currently has a lot of power on on immigration. You know like
a building the wall and so on and so forth, and they just might have more of an agenda and in that world the filibuster, maybe so for them you, we ve talked on the show format about the way in which the Republican Party seems to have collapsed into a miasma cultural grievance as its central unifying properties and it's hard to figure out how you manifest cultural grievance into legislative agenda, but I take that as a solvable problem, and I imagine they could do that if they wanted to over the course of a couple of years, and so it's more that I don't want to say for sure that you imagine bite in the Democrats get rid of the filibustering twenty twenty one and twenty two twenty four twenty twenty. Nicky Hayley or Tom, Con win the presidency and Republicans take back the Senate because the done anything done anything to make America more small or democratic they failed in their in their efforts to governance and they might have an expansive and ambition,
agenda that they are now able to get through a lot more smoothly than than would have been shoe otherwise, so I think it that's probably right. You know and its I think, compared to what sort of literally and in the tax, though a little interesting Lee different, because it's not that it's not neutral in partisan terms because, like you, have two parties and they're gonna do something, but it is not neutral in policy terms right that one consequence of the filibuster is that we can sit here. You know stern, West's agenda, we could be an hour in our box slack or even just on Twitter and we all know that there is a difference between more populist republican senator like Josh Holly and a more can we should all you know, conservative fly I outer now who's the most boring
conventional consider, Rob Portman, Rob Portman right and then you can ask yourself: okay! Well what difference does it make? What is the cash value of the difference between Holly and Portman? And the answer is none right, because Holly can like a a bill with cosponsors CO sponsors, saying he's section two hundred and thirty protections for tech companies unless they all put up little american flags and like it's not gonna Pappas and is going to pass, because nothing is going to pass, because the only kind of bills that pass are huge A partisan emergency deals like the Cares act, narrowly partisan budget reconciliation bills like the Trump tax cuts. And then you know, executive branch appointments are just sort of given over to two to corporate lobbyists making it easier to legislate would make. Democrats should have just go further
like more progressive ideas would pass than can pass in a filibuster universe, but on the right. It would actually, I think, change the content, right along the lines. You're saying you would make it much more realistic to try to do something about the things that more populist minded conservatives talk about, and that would be a real. See change I in american government in a way that I think people don't talk about that. Much filibuster reform is normally discussed on the left and the terms of the discussion or typically and we'll be, could raise the minimum wage more. If we did that or Senator super will come back and- and this point I want to come to us will be like well, we could be an abortion but it's that there's so much ferment on the right. There's a lot of talk, and so much of it right now is empty talk, but everything in american politics is almost empty talk at the moment. So I feel, like you know I I I feel like that, would be the sort of most
interesting long term consequences to sort of unleash policy creativity on the right in a way. That is very it's it's hard to predict like what that would mean right, but I think it would mean a much less libertarian America, but in their two interesting things that I wanna that that I want to take in turn so the one I want to come back to this idea, a lot of american politics being empty policy, talk which is really important, but before I get to that, I want to talk about the way the filibuster paired with budget reconciliation tilt the agenda towards you. I'm back issues and ideas, so something that is happening on the right right now is a huge level of frustration that over the past couple of DEC Aids, social conservatives have been in this relationship with economic conservatives and the like had taken for a ride, that the economic concerns get tax cuts and more tax cuts and like deregulate,
put poison in streams and then more tax cuts, and what are the social concerns get tweets nothing. They get nothing and so has been this big move on the Catholic Right, in particular to say that We have been screwed, we have been scored, that is, maybe an ideological thing that has happened inside the republican coalition, but it also might reflect something else which is the way to get around the filibuster. Is this bizarre process called budget reconciliation, which was Nineteen. Seventy four and it's a way of fast tracking, the pro nation bills process. So you have some appropriation bills, part of your house and Senate one, and you want to reconcile them into one appropriation Bell- and you don't want to take all of your time doing. This- has created this like way to do this technical process pretty quickly on its protected from the filibuster you can't two amendments in the normal way you can't debated in the normal way and so on overtime, people realised you could use to get round the filibuster should then they put these structures on it.
The key ones- and this is something you'll hear called the bird rule there bunch of parts of the bird rule, but the key three things bird rule are every provision did goes you reconciliation has to be primarily about the budget taxing in spending in nature. He can't do regulations, he can't do things in order by taxing and spending it can't increase a budget deficit outside of it Your window this. Why so many republican tax cuts expire after ten years, because here pass through budget reconciliation, cousin they can be bigger, but because it can't keep blown up the deficit after ten years. They have this explore being expiration date under the theory. That, then, will be popular and and and council worked to extend them and then the third
is, it can't touch social security, which is a sort of random bird role structure, a white. The thing this does is parties coming to power, republican or democratic, and they look at their agenda and they ask themselves what can pass here like what is important to us and what can pass an important to us is one consideration, but can pass often means what can theoretically go through budget reconciliation. Taxes could go through budget reconciliation, healthcare, but go to budget reconciliation. Economic things can go through there. But if you want a ban abortion that cannot, if you want to ban porn that cannot if you want to get rid of section two hundred and thirty, unless people put american flags up that cannot and by this is true on the democratic side too. It pushes towards things that are direct spending changes, since. If you want to do climate change legislation, you can do a carbon tax or butter. Reconciliation now be very straightforward. You
may not be able do say, a clean energy standard or renewable energy standard through budget reconciliation, because that's a regulation affecting private industry, and so there is a way in which we ve tilted the agenda towards these things. And that is actually weakened on the right. The social conservative wing of the party, because, even to the extent they have ideas, they can't pass them. So they come to the Senate and they just die. I have heard many, many Republicans and some Democrat say that one The council does not want to get rid of the filibuster. Is he doesn't want to have to have votes, with live ammunition on all these unpopular, conservative, conservative ideas. If you're a social conservative and you do want to have votes, will live ammunition on it. You should really want to get rid of the filibuster, because, but the film us really does right now is: it creates a pathway for the economic conservatives to get their ideas passed into law,
but you don't have that pathway and so your stuff, just a language, is on the shelf. Ok, so that add, let let's take break, and then I do want to come back to this question of sort of basic tournaments if you're a gig worker or employed. There's some good news about PPP loans. You might want to consider millions of self employed workers may qualify for up to fifty thousand dollars in one hundred percent forgivable alone. You might be one of those millions, as the leader PPP allowance? Wobbly can help you find out. They have helped over three hundred thousand small. Businesses across Amerika get a ppp loan. Funds are limited, so apply now wildly dot com, slash, vocs and see. If you qualify for a ppp loan, W, O m p l, why dot com, Slash, Veo, Ex wobbly not a lender terms and programme rules. Apply
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So what did you hear you republican, save, say this in your you like watchwords you if he ever the filibuster, then we're gonna come back with with all these these right wing bills, I've heard Democrats say, that they regret. Having scrapped the filibuster for judicial nominations, because now Trump is confirming all these judges, and there have even been Democrats saying well, they think You should bring that back, and this is the basic sort of case I guess being made right. If you want to put an abstract terms, is that people should be risk averse with their policy right and that it would be a bad. Trade to make it easier to achieve certain goals if, in exchange, the other side can achieve more gulls
that you know I mean. I think this is a real disagreement among the democratic caucus about that. The judicial thing that went down there that a lot of people feel like it would have been better if Obama had worked out kind of deal. I got some kind of people on the bench at an end strange, like Trump, wouldn't be able to fill the roster like that, and I mean I, I wonder what you think about that because of all of the sort of arguments right I mean this is the one that most like its most straightforwardly, true right, that, like Trump, was able to confirm plotted judges, because I made it easier to confirm judges. If Democrats changed the rules that they can pass some of their bills, Republicans will come back and and pass some of their bills to, and you know like interest groups. You know we have big concerns about the Essen and like how.
Would you set people's mind at ease, so I dont want to set people's minds. It is that this is an important move. I want to make here when and why I pushed back a little bit. I media that it it. It helps once at her over the other of the arguments on the filibuster, the one that the other side may pass blogs. You know, like is true Let me take the big version of argument. I want to talk about the twenty thirteen reform, so that that you brought up so on the big point here. It is absolutely true. Both sides will be able to legislate more easily and the thing will always hear from democratic. Send it is too is I dont get rid filibuster because I've been in the majority and This is something that I really want to present as a choice and a trade off, not just in arguing abolition thing you're dealing with their is: do you prefer the benefits and the potential problems of governance to the benefits and the potential problems of pride?
and this is something where I think there is actually we should understand and this is a structural difference between what is for senators and what is good for voters so for senators it may actually Be more useful to be able to things in minority and how this power as an individual and then as a collective. And also be able to dodge accountability, for you didn't get done in the majority. There's a perfectly good reasons to prefer that as a member of the USA It means you will never be without any power at all. This is what they mean when they say they don't want to send it to turn into the house, and it means you will always be able to give some reason why you were unable to your promises, but as an electorate for voters. I think we should look at this very differently than that and in and for this reason, the way the feedback loop of american politics should work. Just like in any democracy is politicians present a an agenda,
voters. Voters decide between the two agenda as they are presented with by politicians in but one side or the other into office that side they got voted in. Majority then deliver some rough facsimile of the agenda. They promised voters then judge how that has check their everyday lives like did they get health insurance, is economy better and then decide whether to real, like those people or throw them out of office, that's a pretty straightforward feedback loop and it's not perfect. Legislating is always hard and like look at other countries, it's hard there too, but it kind of works right. You can painted say like that. I like but folks did when they were in power, or did I not like it, and I want somebody else to get a turn what we have an american politics is that the two sides presented the to the voters vote, one of one of them in a majority tend majority need to do to do that over multiple election cycles because of the of nature of our government and staggered nature of our nature. Elections then that party is not able to deliver.
Anything at all? Like it in any respect, like the agenda promised to to deliver is a huge amount of disappointment and strain and dispirited S among the people who voted for them and confusion when voters will why something didn't happen, then there's a lot of imitation coming up to the next election, about whose fault it is at all, these problems have gone unsolved and the majority it gives a minority being obstructionist in the minority parties. The majority Party of China ram its agenda on the american People's throat and then the american Public Trust a figure. Right about that or more, actually just gets frustrated and thence to see little bit in the other direction, and then we just keep going through the cycle, and the american public never gets anything like the kind of change it votes for- and I think you just choosing between these two models of how to conduct politics. I it's pretty which one would be healthier for the system, but I Understand also why senators prefer the other one yeah I mean I don't know I feel like the two of us. Usually,
I'm the cynical mine and ensure the more idealistic And, to give some credit, I guessed it did the senators their own book here right. I think they have this vision in their mind. I mean, I guess you discuss this in the peace under a separate heading, but the This vision in their mind that won't what's gonna happen. Been here is that one view is ok, it's gonna be like the house right and in the house, at least according to senators, the leadership just gonna cooks up bills, and then they ramoth where's the Senate, at least in their idealized version of the set it. Someone will set the agenda and it's like okay, we're talking about climate now, but because of the filibuster you're going to have to have like a real compromise right and there's going to be, for all the individual senators as a minority party member. It's not just that the minority Party can block, but the minority party
and choose not to block right. So one of the few pieces of legislation that passed in the Trump era was a sort of big crypto, all third partial roll back of the Dodd Frank Banking rules and, This was not eligible for budget reconciliation, so they needed democratic boats to get it done more Democrats just voted against the bill, but several Democrats voted for it and you know if you ask them like. Why did you vote for this bill? They would say you know some of the provisions. Good, but also, they would say like well, they were substantively involved in the shaping of the legislation. I got this priority and I got that priority and I do think that that is more than selfishness on the part of the senators. I think it is appealing to a lot of Americans right. I mean, I think a lot of people have.
Idea that the legislature should be this place of dining and an individual effort and when people say bad- about Congress or the recent trajectory of Congress, that kind of elimination of individual agency and the concentration of everything in leadership and making everything part is something that most voters say they they deplore, and so you know, I think, if you talk to like I don't know Michael Bennett or some of these up Tom Carper, these sort of thought for filibuster, friendly people there. The reaching for this ideal right, we're like statesmen, are gonna craft, compromises, and I mean you're a polarization guy.
And I assume have some view on why that doesn't work right, but that's what people are aiming for, not just while I can block things, but at the ability to block leads to constructive compromise. Yes, there two things here that are worth a couple things here: the EU need to pull apart. So one is the idea of the film us do he's too, liberation right and then that I think, is its cannot. Michael role in american politics, that it, ensures minority voice can be heard that they can make. An argument sometimes had argument will convince people I'm famously, and Mr Smith goes to Washington, Stuarts character, collapses from ass, which leads the corrupt. The old lion senator to have a crisis of consciousness indeed tries to kill himself when he comes back in Bessie his whole scheme on the the Senate, sorry for the spoilers of an old friend, copper movie, so
deliberation is one version of that then there's compromise. This is related not to the not to the to hold ability to hold things up but to the to impose ability to imposing. Both super majority requirement, wherein you can pass anything without getting compromise, and so in theory, at least that should lead to compromise I'm a sort of long discussion of this in the peace, but settings is very, very important. The key thing about this idea- it's not really even wrong. It's actually true for the majority. I've watched, Georgia is governed, pretty democratic majorities in this case, who, I think are more, I tend to have more full. Running agendas and like they really do want to compromise. The mistake of is assuming that the minority will want to compromise as well. I think that the The way that implicitly, compromise has been understood in the Senate is it. It is a gift to the majority offers the minority and the Phil Buster is. Is it is it incentive for them to offer that gift wanting, because
and if anybody ends up destroying the filibuster. Having been speaking to a lot of moderate Democrats about this recently, it will have been Mitch Mcconnell because he disproved this theory. Mcconnell, show, particularly in the Obama era, but not only is that compromise is a gift the minority gives to the majority and there is no reason for them to want to do it, because if you have somebody like Joe Biden before that Barack Obama run for office, saying that, if you make me president, I'm gonna make it I'm so republic. Democrats worked together again and possibly great bills and end. You know american politics will be. Angry and bitter, and you gonna like it better and they succeed at that. Then they get reelected like sixty percent of the boat and what Mcconnell understood you can offer that compromise. And so already under his leadership, we move to everything were in for the most part by the leadership offices. All negotiations happened between them, but you could think about reconstructing the fella buster
to have more of this dynamic. So, for instance, there are a lot of ways to do. Such that you would actually get a lot more deliberation than you do now, because, right now the filibuster works on basically demanding quorum, calls and other weird procedural oddities. It very rarely creates any debate and in fact it is very frequent but the filibuster we placed on the motion to move to a Bell or the motion to debate a bill? So your actually filibustering on. Procedurally, the debate that would have otherwise happened or because you communicated filibuster threat to leadership in advance, a bill that otherwise would have come to the fore. Be debated, won't ever get brought to the floor, because the leadership just at this can't pass it's going to burn up all this floor. We're not going to do it! So there's I've been a good play here by former Senator Tom market from a wise Democrat who had this rats idea, which is it every couple of days during a filibuster, you take a vote and the vote fail the then like the copper reset and the next vote would require three fewer votes
got down to a majority passage of bill, and that would ensure eight days of debate on any bill that you want it that the minority wanted to ensure debate on the question of how to demand compromise is simply harder The issue is that compromise is electorally irrational for minority party the. A party wants the majority party to be seen as a failure, so I've read as part of My work on this piece, a book called defending the filibuster, the soul of the Senate by air, bargain dove and Ehrenberg is a long time Senate Stafford dove as a parliamentarian, and it's a very good things about this. Can I don't be too hard, but its very weird buck? It relies. Heavily on the idea that, like whoever's in majority, I hate to filibuster and minority minority. They want to get rid of it or built they. They they learn to love the filibuster So it's functionally throughout a hypocrisy argument. They agree that the fellow
Star is being misused, but they basically say the promises of the filibuster, the promised hyper partisanship and poor behaviour among senators, and that's true, Filibuster worked very differently from most of american history from nineteen seventeen to nineteen, seventy that were on fewer than one closer boats a year to break a filibuster, because filibusters were so rare. Now there more than eighty five year I mean it's unbelievably different how the Senate works today than it was her most of the twentieth century, but you're not get rid of hyper partisanship and the behaviour that hyper person ship generates, which is not like bad behaviour It is rational behaviour is not going away either. So the issue you get into Here is not whether or not it would be nice to have the filibuster in a consensus and compromise oriented Senate
with ideologically mixed political parties and Anon nationalized political media such hit. You have a lot of room for compromise and the full buster is a push in that direction. But in a hyper, partisan Senate the nature to filibuster becomes not an incentive to compromise, but a tool with which bills can be killed, so the minorities a better chance of winning back the majority, and thus deliberation becomes rarer and arguably compromise becomes rarer. Although I don't exactly The compromises can be rare under either circumstance, but yeah like I dont, want to be Cynical. I understand the Senate that senators yearn for there's plenty of exam holes and I talked to centres on both sides of others all the time like the easy. Way. To get a senator talk is to ask them to criticise how the Senate works today, but the problem is they. Can change it, because the way it works today is how the system needs it to work. This is what my entire book is about, and the filibuster works one way under the system if we want it to work a different way. We can reconstruct a rule or a bill that does that we can create
incentives for the minority to compromise. It are different, like we can be creative about this, but, like the first step of wisdom, is to say it doesn't do that now. So you cannot defeat and the way the Senate works. Now with the idea that used to work differently, like that's great but like us, the thing about old days to go to wires there. The old days like we got it. We gotta figure out what's happening in the institution, now and what has been happening now for decades, not like a one year operation but decades of steady trends with clear structure drivers that no one has any idea how to reverse. Let's. Let's take a break, as I think that's a good sort, a pivot point into some other topics. Support for this episode comes from visa. Helping you rethink how you drink It is a web based program that works by helping you notice the negative thought patterns you might experience in your relationship to alcohol, and then it gives you the tool You need to break those patterns rooted in
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find a new one for free, but help is more affordable option than traditional therapy and financial aid is available. Toby's great I've done a different times in my life soup, help for apple. We now like it's really expensive and sometimes hard to find some good. Better help is like making this much more accessible is great for these ethnic circumstances, but just like a cool model to this package, sponsored by better help and listeners. The weeds get ten percent off their first month at better help. Dot com, slash weeds, get started today, better help, dot com, slash weeds visit, better hd, L, P D. Calm, slash, weeds and joined the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced better help professional. So I, You know knowing you and knowing this this literature right. That's really! The key I think to a recline thought is that
A lot of people who are old or nostalgic, see today as worse than the past terms of how the legislature operates and they yearn to go back right. Is your view. Is that that twentieth century, less polarized legislature is not just gone, but actually aberration all right, so we should expect there to be a way to bring it back, and we should. We should learn to live. With polarize political parties, which means having more majority Harry and institutions and simply just like not expecting that compromises well happen, which they dont in lots of countries read like an in the UK. There's almost never compromise in parliament and its fine. They ve been living, get a gun along fine for hundreds of years. What happens is that the parties, alternating power
right, but they dont bargain over almost anything and when they do it's like a huge crisis in british politics, because people don't expect there to ever be ever be be compromises, but this intersects with the odd way in which senators are elected in a way that I think, gives people pause right, because there's a big senatorial by us toward low popular? states, which it doesn't have to be that low population states are rural states and overwhelming the white States- but that is what they are right so descent greatly exaggerates the voting strength of war, a white people and were white. People are increasingly becoming republic at people, so something.
Started to give me pause is like. Do Democrats really want to create a situation in which a Senate I evil seems to me the demagogic exe to be in the minority in the Senate, more often than not so since they want to increase the power. The black power of Senate minorities in a world where the path to a majority is, is really really difficult. Yes, it is the other side. This is the way the filibuster might getting rid of it might advantage Republican. So the thing and argue about this in the peace is- this really depends on what Democrats do with a more usable Senate if it got rid of the filibuster. One of the people I talk to you for the article is stash roads whose executive
Rector of a really really cool group called fifty one, fifty one and fifty one. Fifty one is a group that is advocating for diesel statehood through a fifty one vote process and the this that the very simple inside here is that, like I'm, a lot of things tons of Democrats say they support Deasey statehood, but so long as they do not support getting rid of filibuster are in general, or at least for that particular odd idea cause you can get rid of filibuster just for some things right over the past ten in years, but I guess I had meant to come back to this democratic got rid of it judicial nominations, Non Supreme Court, judicial nominations and appointments, executive appointments and the Republicans got rid of it for Supreme Court. Shall nominations so so view review in this group's view is that it's really important as a small d democratic question, justice, justice, seven hundred thousand residents of DC have about, I would say also is very simple.
And that poorer regions have the choice to be given for presentation and american politics. It can choose. Otherwise, I think as well on their different people want different things are, but, but I think they'd they should get that and then you would have the addition of two small states DC, would be the highest proportion of african american voters of any state and poor because obviously full of poor regions, and that would change the composition of the Senate. Somewhat too, as I've seen the analysis here. It actually wouldn't make it fully fair or balanced in any particular way. There would still be a site republican lien, but it wouldn't be very big, or at least I've seen that with you, if you add DC as a state. Now, if Democrats get rid of the film and then do nothing to democratize. The country yeah like it will. The Senate will keep more undemocratic and more and wider and more republican John Shade had a nice piece on this, where he talked about the Senate as the most structurally racist institution in american life, both because of how it is composed and then what it does without composition.
So? There was a really really important moment. A couple weeks ago, our mother go now when, at John Mrs memorial service of former President Barack Obama got upon the state Jenny delivered a very powerful eulogy, but he said. Don't just call John, though, is a hero. If you want to honour him, you do what he spent his life trying to do, which is ensuring the right boat, and you know about my laid out a series of issues we should like renamed the legislation we empowering the Voting Rights ACT that John Louis legislation on which to get rid of Jerry Man and so on, and then he said, and if Republicans try to stop all that through the filibuster which is itself a Jim Crow relic, we should get rid of the film You're too now Obama in interviews with me actually has talked about the filibusters problem before he has never gone so far as to say, if Republicans block acts, we should get rid of the Philippines. But that I think, is a really important thing to do. This is just a generalised question of wished. The filibuster is the first piece of it do
Democrats believe in democracy. As a value do they believed secrecy is worth fighting for. Starch arose in peace, has amazing quote where she says to me that people prefer the story of a democracy to the work required to make one and I'm paraphrasing little bit for memory there, but the story of a democracy to the work where to make one Senator Sheldon Sheldon House is a really good, member of the Senate, in my view, in in a bunch of ways, ways he's written books about finance finance reform, he's a Democrat from Island Island very thoughtful. Guy. Couple years ago, though, he said something that was really striking where he was asked by a newspaper, Edward Island, about statehood, Fur DC, seen Puerto Rico and said not. Yes, you ever island could get as much federal procurement. Tk tracked money as DC dies We really happy with that. Then he said you know is a good case for pretty weaken statehood, but
It would feel unfair to Republican. So we need to figure out what state or like break up of the state we give them. So it's fairies, it's just complicated like not something. I worry about. There's a lot of criticism, including from me. He walked that then in a way, that's very, very telling were said to be clear if DC or Puerto Rico statehood came up, a vote in the Senate. I would vote for it. So here you have a Democrat saying that it is. It would be unfair to enfranchise Dc and puerto rican residents, and by the way Puerto Rico is bigger than like. Twenty of the states are currently roughly fifteen or twenty states currently have representation. I have the number in the piece and it would be unfair because they might choose to use their vote to vote for members of White House's own party, like it's the craziest thing in the world, but it is the way in which
catch. The status quo manages to hide its own injustices and make any change to itself seemed like itself an injustice and then like when White us goes further and says I look, I would vote for it came up in the Senate. They got the whole problem It's not gonna come up in the Senate with a filibuster, so you never have to vote for it at all like that. Just like total empty air words, and so I my view. Democracy is really important and one of the fundamental things perverting american politics right now is our democracies become so weakened. I mean it's been weak many times in our history. And has not been strong for very long at all, but right now, the White is occupied by the guy, who won fewer votes in the election, the Senate is occupied by the party that won fewer votes in the relevant elections. The Supreme Court is occupied by people appointed by people who want your vote in the relevant elections as a three of the four major power centres american government do not reflect the will of the american people at all, like that's
Tucker tyranny, the majority. In those circumstances we operate currently under tyranny of the minority, and it becoming more and more dangerous, as at minority sees itself losing power, they to meet his existential important than America actually becomes a democracy. And the only way that has any chance of happening is one. If Democrats get rid of the filibuster or change it. So it's not a sixty boat super majority requirement and two. If they then prioritize democratizing this country not to give themselves power, has republican Party will adapt itself and will try to compete for votes it doesn't currently have to compete for, but they have Do it, because if they don't like it's just going to keep weakening right- and it is just that you're going to have a republican party that has enough power to keep changing rules to try to keep itself in power actually competing for boats of, say, people who live in Puerto Rico and just like
The court. I really appreciate the way, but the court by thought that, but one thing that I wish as accurate as the core of my thought: is it the incentives of put systems really matter and the more the american political system degrades from being a democracy. The more one party has a path to power that does not require winning a majority of the public and, in fact, requires catering to the of a declining racial and political group like you, dont want that, you? U dont want that to be the incentive in your system, and so you have to do something radical to change it fast before it entrenches itself. I think Republicans could compete in a true democracy. I think you see that in all kinds of blue states where their republican governors, I think you see it, threw out our hand. Where the parties change depending on what they actually need to do, but if they dont need to, they won't, and if Democrats don't make them, they won't and of Democrats, don't believe in democracy and left actually fight for it. Then what the hell do, they believe
well, so my notes here said I wanted to make these points about. Democracy is a broader issue, but you made the and there we are so that's good. The conversation ended up in the right place at just about the right time. I'm gonna need to move on to do some more interviews about my book, which you should by. If you out there listening one billion Americans foresail September fifteenth. You know I looked. I didn't exactly right that, where, where we ended right, which is that the EU, the file. It's this kind of weird thing: Senate procedure Ababa, but it ties into in democracy right in a really intimate way, and I feel, like Democrats have not made that turn right, something about Donald Trump makes Democrats want to say a lot that, like our democracy, is at stake and they should take that seriously in some ways than they do and like really think about it, because they often feel
to me, like excessively discomfited by the idea that its correct to just like demand political equality for people a, but it's like a completely reason from thing did to stand and fight for and two and to play tough for right. It's not is a dirty pool to say that American citizens living in the District of Columbia. Jeff representation in Congress is often treated as like. Her hair, like ass kind, sly treatment. But if you just like arbitrarily disenfranchised people in Idaho, like they'd, be really upset, they'd be self riches about it, and their political allies would stand up for them. Okay, so thanks Ezra, thanks as always to our sponsors. Our producer defeat, and the we will be back on Tuesday.
Transcript generated on 2021-05-15.