Majority Rule is Good for Liberals


Oh well, let’s talk more about the filibuster. News is slow today. Over at TalkLeft, BTD takes Chris Bowers to task for suggesting that ending the filibuster would be good for liberals:

Bowers [is] not imagining what a GOP President and GOP Congress would have achieved with the elimination of the filibuster. You thought the actual Bush tax cuts were bad? They would be TWICE as bad without the filibuster. And twice as hard to undo as they would have been passed in regular order, meaning that to undo them would require passage of new legislation.

You can be for eliminating the filibuster on principles of democracy, as Ezra Klein is. But you can not be against the filibuster, as Chris Bowers is, based on advantage to Democrats and progressives.

Actually, I don’t think this is right. Obviously conservatives would be able to get more done if the filibuster didn’t exist. This is a two-way street, after all. But conservative legislation, on average, tends to be easier to overturn than liberal legislation. Taxes, for example, go up and down all the time, and conservative tax cuts could be washed away easily by liberals if the filibuster didn’t exist. But liberal programs tend to be more permanent. Once they get entrenched, even conservatives are loath to eliminate them. For all the big talk about Social Security in 2005, it wasn’t the filibuster that kept George Bush from passing his privatization plan. In the end, he couldn’t even get majority support for it.

As conservatives know pretty well, this is generally true. Liberal social welfare programs are objects of enormous legislative battles when they’re enacted, but they tend to be pretty popular once they’ve been passed and had a chance to swing into action. Tea party rhetoric aside, most Americans like government bennies. Who wouldn’t, after all?

Anything that prevents change is, almost by definition, helpful to conservatives, since preventing change is one of their core interests. Ending the filibuster wouldn’t be a liberal panacea, but on net it would almost certainly be a benefit to progressive causes. 

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