Jimmy Stewart in . Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,. Hollywood's version of a filibuster.
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By Bob Gaydos
"If it's good enough for The New York Times, it's good enough for us."
With those words of wisdom, a newspaper editor gave a willing but wary member of his staff a gentle shove into the world of editorial writing. The staff member was me. The editor was Bill Kennedy. The newspaper was The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The time was late November, 1983. My maiden piece had appeared on Nov. 23,1983, the 20-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Serendipity. JFK and I share a birthday.
On this day, I was asking Bill about an editorial I was thinking of writing, but which The Times, which circulated in our area, had just voiced an opinion on that morning. It was pretty much the same as what I had in mind and I was a little annoyed that they "beat" me. An ego thing.
"Do we care?" I asked.
"Do our readers care, or even notice?" Bill answered.
I wrote the editorial. The topic has long since been lost in my memory. But Kennedy's message remained.
It came to me in a flash a couple of weeks back as I was having a debate with myself on the wisdom of scrapping the Senate filibuster. I had pretty much decided I was all for it because, honestly, I am up to my eyeballs in Mitch McConnell single-handedly trying to destroy this country for anyone but the super-rich and super-white. With him as Senate majority leader for 10 years, any meaningful piece of social legislation proposed by Democrats had no chance. Now, as minority leader, he threatens to use the filibuster to kill Democrats' sweeping voter reform law while having the gall to claim that Democrats refused to negotiate on it with Republicans.
My only hesitation in writing this piece was that even some Democrats were defending the filibuster because of its "ttradition" in the Senate and its supposed protection against a super majority running roughshod over democracy. Those arguments had pretty much lost out and I also thought about the threat the filibuster would pose to immigration reform, criminal justice reform and anything else President Biden might propose to advance racial and cultural harmony in the nation in the wake of four years of the divisive Trump administration.
Enough of McConnell, already, I said to myself. Let's save the country while I'm still alive to appreciate it. And then there was the Times editorial: "For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go."
Well, thanks, Bill.
Of course, I was so upset that I let them beat me on writing the editorial and didn't want people to think I just copied theirs, that I waited a good two weeks before sitting down to do mine. This is it. The filibuster must go.
Even though it is promoted as a barrier to a majority abusing its power over a minority, its primary application from the beginning has been to allow a minority of senators to exclude minorities in America from enjoying the rewards of democracy. First, it was slavery. More recently, civil rights legislation. Forget Jimmy Stewart in the movies. It is an outdated tool that has been used to preserve and promote bias. And for all it's "tradition." the Senate has already written exceptions into the rule.
A brief description of the filibuster rule is appropriate here. When the Constitution was written, the framers kept it simple. In order for a bill to pass in the 100-member Senate, a simple majority of 51 votes was all that was needed. When Southern members took to long-winded floor speeches (filibusters) to delay or deter votes to abolish slavery, a rule was approved that requires the votes of 60 senators to end a filibuster.
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