Filibuster Politics

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Matt Yglesias gets his title right, but then broadens his post in a way that, I think, makes it wrong:

[L]egislators prefer to do nothing at all. The supermajority—and, more broadly, the extreme difficulty of moving legislation—makes it easier for elected officials to make contradictory commitments to various people.

It’s clearly not the case that legislators prefer to do nothing at all.  Republican legislators crammed as much legislating into their years of rule as they could.  They clearly preferred doing stuff.

What is the case, as his title suggests, is that Democratic legislators prefer to do nothing at all.

Actually, no, that’s not right either.  It’s not that they prefer to do nothing, it’s that they’re afraid to do something.  When the GOP controlled things, the Dems were afraid not to follow along, so they helped the GOP do things — with the comfort of doing it from the GOP’s shadow.  Now that the Dems control things, they can’t stand in the GOP’s shadow, anymore, and they’re afraid to move.

So we see this “We can’t actually do anything progressive because of the filibuster” excuse-making instead of arm-twisting and hard bargaining to bring recalcitrant members along.

They have the leadership positions, but they’re afraid to exercise actual leadership.  They’re still trying to hide in the GOP’s now greatly reduced shadow, and the filibuster excuse gives them the means to do it.

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2 Responses to “Filibuster Politics”

  1. System vs. People « Hungry Hungry Hippos Says:

    […] I’ve said before, it’s not at all clear to me that our inability to get big legislation passed is the fault of […]

  2. I need to buy a lottery ticket, quick! « Hungry Hungry Hippos Says:

    […] “leadership” style almost exactly the same way I described it yesterday (see also here and here): Reid says he expects the tactic of gentle persuasion to work best, given the size of his […]

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