Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Good discussions to be had

Juan Cole presents his wonderful knowledge of American history with his discussion of the filibuster and judicial nominees. A must read. He quotes the Federalist Papers, makes analogies to disastrous effects of majoritarianism in Algeria, and goes over Sen. Joe Biden’s defense this past Sunday.

I’m gonna ramble a bit now, assuming you’ve read it.

1. Apparently one of Madison’s largest hopes for our republic was that it was too large for one political faction to have true dominance. We just sprawl too much. Times have changed, one party seems to have that dominance, and Cole thinks therefore we need the other Constitutional protections more than ever to bolster that. (Ignoring of course other periods of American history when one party clearly held similar dominance, if not more.)

Let’s think about that for a second. Perhaps the most intelligent and influential constitutional framer, premised our system of government upon the inability to form national coalitions. Wow, that was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Every time someone mentions the “wisdom of the founders” in forseeing the problems our nation would deal with, keep that in mind. An institutional structure founded upon such absurd and outright wrong nations, is really not that sacred. Maybe this means we need to rely on our other checks even more… but maybe it also means they were groping in the dark (however nobly).

2. Interesting point that the 46 Dem Senators represent a majority of the populace. Of course there’s the counter that the House is Republican, but I have no trouble dismissing the legitimacy of a 2% majority there with the extreme gerrymandering going on. Regardless, Biden is making a point that this isn’t about majoritarianism, and if it were, Democrats would probably have a better hand. It’s random-ass institutional structures that have delivered Republicans power, and they will die by that sword as much as they have lived by it.

Which reminds me. Gerrymandering sucks. And is the result of a system where you have powerful individuals as the representatives and not party lackeys. Party lackeys would have less interest to perpetuate incumbent seats and stability, and to boss around state legislatures to keep them in power. Every other party based Parliament has had to convert to rational districting because the people demanded it and the parties responded. But I digress.

3. One of these days some Republican is going to point out that the filibuster is not in the Constitution. In fact, the House used to have it, and did away with it.

4. I don’t see how majoritarianism was the problem in Algeria. I see how resistance to majoritarianism was a problem. And I don’t see what or any institutional structures could have prevented that overwhelming religious majority from coming to power, or prevented the military from being afraid of it. A harder method to pass constitutional amendments? Did you see that majority?


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