Ahead-of-the-Curve Hackery

I’ve seen plenty of solidly argued pieces in favor of parliamentary systems over the US system, although I usually disagree with them. And I’ve seen lots of well-argued pieces in favor of a more majoritarian US Senate, which I generally sort of half-agree with. But what’s new to me is a abrupt jump from a long argument for Canadian superiority to the US system to:

Those who defend the filibuster tend to pick out some instances where it cut their way. It hurt us when our side was on top, they tell us, but go back a bit further and you’ll find an example where it cut our way. If I’m correct, however, it systematically hurts the country. In particular, conservatives who want to undo the legislative mess of the last few years will want to put their finger on the nuclear option to blow up the filibuster…That is why, if the 2012 election turns out as I expect, the first order of business for then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell should be a return to simple majoritarian rule and the elimination of the filibuster.

That’s F.H. Buckley, a law prof at George Mason, who is clearly ahead of the curve here. After all, we all do expect a fair amount of flipping on these issues if, indeed, the 2012 elections result in unified GOP control (prediction: Dem pols would flip, but a fair number of Dem bloggers would remain anti-filibuster and lament what they see as a foolishly short-sided choice by Dem Senators). But it takes far more talent than most to come up with a principled, or at least a principled-looking, argument for why the filibuster should be eliminated as soon as control of the Senate flips, but not a moment before. Buckley, unlike most, will be able (should the elections go that way) to parade around next winter calling for abolition of the filibuster and honestly claiming that he called for it way back when the Democrats held the White House and the Senate.

Sort of.

It’s really an awesome effort. After 1600 words devoted to arguing that parliamentary systems are superior, the last three operative paragraphs drop that entirely and make a practical partisan argument for conservatives to support a majoritarian Senate based on the idea that conservatives have a larger agenda than do liberals and therefore will benefit from making it easier to pass laws. At least after they win!

I’m not sure whether Andrew Sullivan has an award for this kind of advanced hackery, but if he does this piece really deserves serious consideration.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.