BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
The Filibuster: A Platform for Prima Donnas to Obstruct Democracy
It's time to get rid of the filibuster in the United States Senate. The filibuster is a senate rule where if there is less than sixty votes on any issue, any one senator can hold up the people's business by blocking the issue from coming to a vote before the full senate.
The movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," with Jimmy Stewart, portrays the practice in its most charitable light. There, Jimmy Stewart's character uses the filibuster to prevent legislation from being enacted against the people by a corrupt political machine. But in reality, the filibuster is virtually always used to obstruct legislation beneficial to the people in favor of a corrupt or malevolent status quo.
In 1957 Sen. Strum Thurmond (Sen., S.C.) filibustered to obstruct the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Then in 1964 a group of Southern senators mounted a filibuster in an attempt to obstruct a vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which included anti lynching legislation. And just recently Sen. Joe Lieberman threatened to filibuster to prevent healthcare legislation from coming to a vote in order to protect the greed of the insurance industry - and that was in spite of the fact that a full 68% of the people who voted him into office stood firmly in favor of healthcare reform.
The filibuster is symbolic of the many ways that Americans are being manipulated by the encroachment of an increasingly insidious class system. Thus, the time has long since past for the American people to rediscover the necessity of keeping tight reins on governmental power.
It is absolutely incumbent upon us to strip individual politicians of the tools to hold badly needed legislation hostage for their own personal interest. Not only is it undemocratic to allow one senator to override the will of the people and the majority of the senate, but recent history has clearly demonstrated that politicians are much too self-serving, irresponsible, and corrupt to be vested with such tremendous power.
In an article in Slate.com, it was pointed out that Joe Lieberman's opposition to healthcare reform came only one day after the insurance lobby released a report attacking it. Slate also pointed out that Lieberman's home state of "Connecticut is home to 72 insurance companies, including Aetna, a major player in the health-insurance industry whose PAC and employees have this year given Lieberman $65,200." As a result, Lieberman didn't blink an eye before throwing his constituents under the bus.
So while Joe Lieberman didn't follow through with his threat to filibuster healthcare legislation, it certainly wasn't because he prayed over the issue and suddenly found God. Lieberman didn't follow through with his threat for the very same reason that seems to generally motivate his machinations - self-interest. First, he wants to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee in the senate, which the Democrats allowed him to keep even after he turned on them in the 2008 election. And secondly, the pressure for him to fall into line became much too intense for his cowardly heart to take. His threat to filibuster the legislation was designed to pull other Democrats onboard, but when he failed to do so, he lacked the character to stand alone.
President Eisenhower pointed out in his speech on the military/industrial complex that "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together [emphasis added]." That also applies to every other area of American governance. But due to the under funding and concerted attack on our educational system, we're rapidly losing that essential characteristic, which is absolutely necessary to maintain the viable democracy that was established by this nation's founders.
Over the years America has become increasingly hostile toward education and the pursuit of knowledge in general. In fact, many of our politicians have started to actively demonize education in much the same way that they demonized the term "liberal" in the sixties. The educated members of our society are now often referred to as "elitist." The hostility of our politicians toward education stems from the fact that the demagoguery of control and manipulation cannot thrive in a knowledgeable society. A knowledgeable society would immediately recognize that one man should not be able to obstruct public policy.
So they've mounted a brutal attack on our educational system by trying to starve it to death. Those who are entrusted with the nation's most valuable asset - the intellectual development of our nation's youth - are denigrated, paid like paupers, and relegated to among the lowest tiers of our society, when they should be at the top. And while other countries are guaranteeing a higher education to all who are qualified, the children of the poor and middle class in the United States are being arrested for demonstrating against college tuition being raised far beyond their ability to pay.
This is not by accident. Our educational system is being purposely undermined so the American people can be easily trained, like Pavlov's dog, to respond to emotional cues rather than rational thought. In that way, corporate manipulators like Joe Lieberman, Fox News, and the Republican Party are left to define, for the people, what's in their best interest. It allows the likes of Rush Limbaugh or a Glen Beck to instruct them in when it's appropriate to become outraged.
That leaves the nation in a very precarious position, because now, instead of loving America, and American ideals, the people have been conditioned to vest their love and loyalty in individuals. We currently see the effect of that in the people's response to Sarah Palin on the right, and President Obama on the left. While certaintly not equating the president with Sarah Palin, the point is, many people have confused their love for individuals with patriotism, and the character of that "patriotism" is determined by the character of the individual. That's extremely dangerous, especially since these people lack the education to reflect back on WWII.
The problem is, in order for American citizens to truly love America, they have to know what it is about America that's worth loving. But due to the attack on our educational system, we've spawned a generation of Americans who know absolutely nothing about American traditions, nor ideals. That's why they so easily accept torture, and the invasion of privacy as though it's business as usual. That's also why they so casually accept the fact that there's a class of people who are obviously above the law. That's what they see in American life, and they have no other frame of reference or educational background to inform them that having a class above the law is un-American. As a result, we have a constant chipping away of American values.
While part of President Eisenhower's warning was "make no assumptions," those of us who do have a knowledge of American ideals have made the false assumption that a knowledge of America's traditions are so fundamental that it's common to all Americans. But the fact is, it's not. There's a large segment of our population who don't know what it means to be an American. Thus, it's not necessary for corporate controllers to take away our rights, we've become so ignorant as a people that we're fighting one another to give them away - and don't make the mistake of thinking that applies to only the least of us.
Our military personnel all get a crash course in what it means to be an American, but what of the corporate and political class? The politicians tell us that we're at war. That used to mean that the entire country pulled together to sacrificed equally to defeat the enemy. But how many sons and daughters of the political or corporate class have died in this war? That's right - not one.
Yeah, I know. We have a volunteer army. But if America is in such a life and death struggle, why aren't the rich and political class urging their children to volunteer in the name of patriotism? I'll tell you why - because the pride of the founding fathers has become so remote that the rich and powerful now see patriotism as pedestrian. These people have learned from their parents - Dick Cheney, for example - that the pride of patriotism is nothing more than a tool to manipulate the masses.
Why isn't the super-patriotic Liz Cheney driving a truck in Iraq? The simple answer is, because she sees it as beneath her station. She feels that there are "little people" to do that sort of thing. Her job is to be a cheerleader.
Thus, we've become the victims of our own ignorance, and it's time to set that straight before it's too late. And the only way that we can restore ourselves as "we the people," is by reasserting ourselves over the lofty and arrogant by stripping then of their political power. And the very first step in that process should be regaining control of congress, and stripping these prima donnas of the right to filibuster the will of the American people.
Eric L. Wattree