Megan McArdle, Ben White, and my colleague Farhad Manjoo are all incredibly smart people. They’ve also revealed something about politics by getting the same thing wrong, simultaneously. Here, via Twitter, are their reactions to Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’$2 13-hour filibuster of an abortion restriction bill, which galvanized liberals last night.
… AAAAAND the parties swap positions on the filibuster again, several years ahead of schedule. — Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) June 26, 2013
Argument on left seems to be: “We hate the filibuster! Except when we love it!” — Ben White (@morningmoneyben) June 26, 2013
Ok, who’s going to write the piece calling out liberals for supporting antidemocratic filibusters? — Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) June 26, 2013
What are they missing? Simple: Liberals and Democrats don’t “hate the filibuster.” They currently hate the bottlenecks of Senate debate that require 60 votes to move ahead on debates or final votes. These are technically known as “filibusters,” but they require no sweat or sacrifice from the minority party. You don’t have the majority but you want to stop a bill? Just get 40 colleagues to oppose it. They don’t even need to show up—if the vote is, say 59-30, you still don’t have cloture.
That’s what liberals oppose. In January they got most of their senators behind a reform plan that didn’t eliminate the filibuster. It would have required opponents of a bill to hold the floor and speak against a bill if they were trying to stop it. This was what Rand Paul did; this was what Wendy Davis did. Based on what Manjoo et al are saying, it seems like the “filibuster means talking” meme runs deep. And that misunderstanding is very good for Republicans who want to retain the ability to, say, kill a gun control bill without actually having to hold the floor and speak against it.