Filibusters

FILIBUSTERS….This chart got a lot of links over the weekend, and for good reason. It’s pretty eye-popping. The accompanying article says that the trend toward more filibusters “has been evolving for 30 years,” but really, that’s pretty misleading even if it’s technically true. In fact, the number of filibusters has been relatively steady since 1986 — until this year, when Republicans found themselves in the minority for the first time in a decade and decided to throw an unprecedented temper tantrum about it. If they keep things going at their current pace, they’ll have conducted 153 filibusters by the end of 2008, compared to the previous record of 58.

It’s also worth noting why Republicans are filibustering everything in sight. It’s not because it’s the only way they have of blocking legislation they dislike. After all, a Republican is president. The real reason is a desperate desire to kill popular legislation quietly (the press doesn’t spend much time reporting on routine filibusters) rather than force President Bush to kill popular legislation in full public view (the press does report on presidential vetoes). The problem is that the public tends to be on the side of Democrats when domestic issues actually get some attention, so Republicans benefit by keeping their disagreements as low key as possible. The last thing they need is a bunch of high-profile vetoes that would make it crystal clear exactly what they’re fighting against.

Thus, as a friend keeps reminding me, griping about obstructionism per se won’t really get us very far. For the most part the public just tunes it out as “politics.” It’s a point worth making, but it has to be secondary to the main point: making sure the public knows what it is that Republicans are opposing. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure how to do that given the current state of the press in America. More funny YouTube videos?