Michael: Nuking our DemocracyNext week, all eyes will be focused on the drama in the Senate as the GOP attempts to subvert our Democratic institution of the filibuster. Make no mistake, stripping the minority of rights to slow or stop unwanted action, be it legislation or lifetime appointments, is not improving democracy, it is destroying it. And like all great dramas, the dialog is not about what it is about. The script may be about 10 rejected nominees, but the meaning is really only about the coming nominations to the Supreme Court. The GOP wants to strip Democrats of the right to object to judicial nominees only because they plan to pack the court with the worst sorts of activist judges yet seen. They will make Fortas or Bork seem like centrists by comparison.
There is only one way to stop this and the Senators on the Democratic side of aisle can't do it. The 'nuclear option' of constitutional reinterpretation is against the rules of the Senate, and cannot be stopped by less than 50 Senators. Unless at least 5 GOP Senators suddenly put their love of country above loyalty to party the 'option' will pass: and only three, McCain, Chafee, and Snow have found the spine to stand up for their countries' democracy. No. Saving the right of filibuster, the 200+ year institution that protects minority rights in this country, is not going to be accomplished by politicians, it is up to you. Only a sufficient outcry by the citizenry will put paid to the GOP's ambition to set up a one-party state and pack our Court with ideologues.
Some may claim that losing the filibuster, which was used to block civil rights legislation and to prolong the institution of slavery, will ultimately be a positive thing for America. That without the filibuster progressive legislation will be enacted more easily over the forces supporting the status quo. This might be true, but difficulty in good times is a small price to pay to avert tyranny in bad times. The quality and durability of a democracy lies in it's ability to protect minorities, not in its ability to empower majorities; majorities are almost always empowered by nature and do not require democracy to ensure their ascendancy.
Our democracy is badly disordered. I, for one, feel that we are very close to the sort of institutional collapse that proceeds all descents into tyranny; the majority picking apart the institutional and traditional safeguards against tyranny until nothing stands against the onslaught of dictatorship. This is the pattern seen every time a democracy has fallen into tyranny; and the GOP is demanding Americans put their own heads on that same well-used chopping block.
We like to think that America is immune from tyranny. To the extent that has been true, it is not because of our character or our principles. If we have been resistant to tyranny, it is only because of the finely judged Constitutional checks and balances built into our institutions (many of which, such as the war powers and the treaty power, have long been abrogated) and those traditions installed early in the life of our Republic by wise statesmen, such as the filibuster and the rights of minorities in Congress (which are now under attack or already destroyed).
Our democracy is already pressed to the wall by the tyranny of a burgeoning police state, an over weaning and bloated military-industrial complex (which, if you think about it, is just another word for the combination of state and corporate power that Mussolini called corporatism or fascismo), an electoral system that returns 98% of federal office-holders to office, a national security state that hides many of the most important decisions our country makes behind a veil of secret executive orders and black budgets, and a political party system that is subject to capture by a pack of ravening Savonarolas on the right hand, and passel of centrist careerists on the left. If we throw away some of the final institutional checks that are the bulwarks of our freedom, we are truly lost.