Filibusters and Snowstorms

December 20, 2009


A real-life blizzard, Boston, 2005

In New York, where I grew up, the winters are wintry but, by and large, manageable. We might get a big blizzard every few years, one or two snow days every winter, and enough modest snowfalls to remind us we were in the north, but not more than that. I always supposed that this relative moderation of climate was the reason the TV weather forecasters would always get so exercised about every predicted snowstorm. Then I moved to Boston, where the winters are more fierce, and it was the same silly hysteria, and now I am in Hartford, which gets more snow than Boston, and still it’s the same craziness. Yesterday, for example, I couldn’t listen or watch the news without hearing about the promised “winter wallop” that was careening up the east coast at about the speed of an Amtrak train (that is, slowly). And this morning, I am looking out the back window at about four inches of snow.

Also this morning, I read in the papers that Senate Democrats had to settle for a healthcare plan without a public option because otherwise they wouldn’t get the needed 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. But honestly, what is the big deal about filibusters? I feel like they are the predicted blizzards of the legislative world.

Let’s imagine what would happen if Republicans (among whom I include our charming Senator Lieberman) decided that the prospect of providing affordable basic healthcare to most Americans were just to socialistic to endure. They would start talking. Jeff Sessions would fill the august chamber with his lugubrious drawl, wrapped expertly around disingenuous arguments, and then after a few hours, he’d pass it to the more nasal yet slightly more stentorian Mitch McConnell, and so on and so forth, for days. Fox News pundits would go bananas with that particular kind of excitement people feel in the face of an event that is supposed to inspire not excitement but grim determination mixed with fear – pretty much the same contained giddiness we feel before a big snowstorm hits. Fox News producers would dust off their best billowing American flag graphics to frame the fearless patriots of the Senate who were bravely risking their vocal cords and putting off long-scheduled family plans and mistress trysts to stand up to those bolsheviks in the White House. And within a day or two, most Americans would totally tune out.

If and when the public ever tuned in to national politics again, it would only be when the filibuster had dragged on so long that the Senate was unable to pass spending bills to keep the government running. At that point, with just a little bit of pointed commentary from the Democrats and the White House, the Republicans, who by then would be reading the phone book into the record to keep their filibuster going, would look like huge assholes. Eventually, they would give up, the Democrats would win, and that would be that.

Remember the Civil Rights Act? It’s kind of a big deal. Everyone’s favorite intern-fondling racist, Strom Thurmond, filibustered it by himself for over 24 hours, and it still got enacted. And if somehow Republicans were to succeed in defeating a bill that 58% of the Senate (and more of the public) supports, well, it would just make them look bad.

So come on, Democrats! Put on your snow boots and your winter coats and weather the storm! It won’t be nearly as bad as predicted. School probably won’t even be cancelled. But you might need a good shovel, if you catch my meaning.

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One Response to “Filibusters and Snowstorms”

  1. Rich said

    I was actually thinking about your first point a lot yesterday. WE ARE IN THE NORTHEAST US. IT HAS SNOWED HERE EVERY YEAR OF RECORDED HISTORY. Why do people here continue to freak out about snow?

    I think that the only regions of the US who do not have this freak-out with a middling snow event are: Northern New England, Upstate NY, the U.P. of Michigan, and the Mountainous regions of the West (and, I assume Alaska). I cannot confirm this for sure, as I have only lived in one of those areas. But I can confirm that it took an event of at least 18-inches before anyone got too concerned there.

    As for the filibuster idea, that seems interesting, but you underestimate the stupidity of our media, the tolerance of asshole behavior, and the pussiness of the Democrats. Remember when a majority was a big deal and a filibuster was a rare occasion? Now we can’t get anything done without 60? I feel like if they get 65 seats, the Republicans would find some obscure procedural rule where you need 80 votes for anything to get done.

    Here are some interesting snow maps:

    http://maps.howstuffworks.com/united-states-annual-snowfall-map.htm

    and my home:
    http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/buf/lakeffect/snowseason.html

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