If you can’t win, shut up

Don Norvell

As we all know, politicians never run out of excuses to justify their actions, but no amount of illogic can change the fact that incompetence reigns. Nothing demonstrates this fact more brilliantly than the filibuster.

While Republicans are currently trying to eliminate the filibuster, Democrats excuse the practice because the GOP filibustered when it was the minority party and/or because it is a constitutional mechanism to protect minority rights.

The first argument is void because “they did it first” is a cry-baby attitude unbecoming of a leader. Bad behavior must be stopped regardless of who started it.

Furthermore, the Constitution does not delegate the power to filibuster. The word never appears in the Constitution. The closest reference thereto is the power of each house of Congress to establish its own rules and procedures. As a result, the House of Representatives has stricter rules than the Senate to prevent a filibuster.

Indeed, the filibuster is a procedural loophole whereby sore losers can waste 26 hours reading the phone book hoping this Chinese water torture will drive the majority to withdraw the bill from consideration.

If the minority cannot persuade enough members of the majority to change their minds through intelligent debate, it deserves to lose a yea or nay vote as punishment for its own inadequacy.

Contrary to popular belief, intelligent persuasion is possible in America because people vote for candidates instead of parties. Under parliamentary government, people vote for parties, and party leaders decide who will actually serve. Those who vote against the party are guaranteed to lose their posts after the next election.

Because we Americans vote for individuals, a representative has the right, indeed an obligation, to vote against his party when the bill is harmful to his constituents or to America at large. While he may lose favor with his party, he can still win re-election by proving that he values the people more than politics.

As I learned when I took American Politics as an undergrad, party loyalty in the United States is very low compared to other democracies. This respect for dissent is the reason political oxymorons like pro-choice Republicans (e.g., Rudy Giuliani) and pro-gun Democrats (e.g., Joe Lieberman) exist.

Pardon my idealism, but I want to believe that every bill is proposed with America’s best interest at heart. We taxpayers pay the Congress to act in our collective best interests. Wasting time to stop one bill only prevents the Senate from tackling other important issues, effectively allowing them to get paid for nothing and possibly endangering us by delaying other legislation.

The most difficult part of being a gentleman is admitting when you have lost. If the minority party cannot acquire this ability, it might as well prevent members of the majority from voting through violence, as they sometimes do in Japan. At least then C-SPAN would have respectable ratings. Who wouldn’t want to watch a small army of decrepit old men beat each other up?

Finally, if the bill does more harm than good, the minority will have a strong issue with which to win the next election.

Don Norvell is a physics graduate assistant and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].