Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Keeping things in perspective

As the showdown over the filibuster reaches a climax, two thoughts to keep things in perspective:

1. Democrats and Republicans are playing up the issue to gain political advantage with their constituencies. But by the time elections roll around in November 2006, this issue will be long forgotten. Over the next 18 months, we will see at least one vacancy on the Supreme Court, and likely more. Scandals will come and go. A global conflict of some scale will occur. If nothing else, the mere passage of time will make the filibuster a non-issue in the next election cycle despite Republican efforts to play up the issue in Republican-leaning states with Democratic senators.

2. For all the hype about how much it matters who our judges are, the importance is of limited degree. To be sure, Republican-appointed judges may be somewhat more likely to decide cases in conservative fashion than Democratic-appointed judges, but generally not by a shockingly large margin. The rule of law has some meaning, even if there is play in the joints. Further, judges lack power to reshape society without the consent of the people because they do not have the power to enforce their decisions. Take for example three important cases for which May 17 is an anniversary. Each demonstrates that even when it comes to explosive civil rights issues, the courts have been either limited or empowered by popular opinion.

May 17, 1954. Brown v. Board of Education has a mixed legacy 51 years after it was decided. On the one hand, there is universal agreement that Brown was correctly decided, and its symbolic importance in breaking down formal barriers in society is unparalleled. On the other hand, schools today are more segregated than they were when Brown was handed down. The Supreme Court tried for 20 years to enforce Brown before it gave up. Changing demographics and resistance had made it too difficult for the Court to desegregate the schools of its own accord.

May 17, 2004. Massachusetts began recognizing gay marriages six months after the state supreme court held the state constitution required it. Massachusetts voters endorsed the decision in the next election by giving control of the state legislature to pro-gay marriage forces, ensuring the defeat of the movement to amend the state constitution. However, the fallout outside Massachusetts almost certainly cost Senator Kerry the presidency and voters elsewhere passed state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in their states. The Supreme Court won’t dare touch this issue for years to come because if it did, the people would immediately pass a constitutional amendment superseding the decision.

May 17, 2004. On the same day that Massachusetts began recognizing gay marriage, the Supreme Court handed down Tennessee v. Lane, upholding the constitutionality of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as applied to the states. The decision was a rare victory for ADA supporters; the courts have been aggressive in scaling back the reach of the ADA since its enactment 15 years ago. The courts have been able to get away with it because the ADA is deeply unpopular with business and conservatives and Congress has made no effort to defend the statute.

Because the filibuster promises to be a non-issue in the elections 18 months from now and the filibuster is not going to have much impact, if any, on how cases come out, the real question should be whether the time has come to change the rules of the Senate for their own sake.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

Yea the Republicans employing the nuclear option to abolish de facto filibusters in the House in the 1890s that arose because Democrats would fail to vote and hence a quorum wasn't present. The rule change by Mr. SPEAKER REED was upheld by a party-line vote. Ironically enough, the Democrats repealed the rule in the next session when they were in the majoirty, and Republicans started delaying things by failing to make a quorum, just as the Democrats had previously. That didn't last long though - when Democrats felt as though they would be blamed for failing to get anything accomplished, they quickly repassed the rule. So I must concur with POYS that the republic will survive, and it sure will make for some great entertainment next week.

5/17/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger bum from jersey said...

the bum is back to straighten you out...again.

Democrats and Republicans are playing up the issue to gain political advantage with their constituencies.

no they aren't. it was an issue forced by the republicans and because the democrats feel like they are weak and defenselvess they are arguing like heck to keep it around. they feel its one of their few options to hold some kind of power in the legislative branch of government.

you continue on to say this would be a non-issue by nov. 2006 and you are right but you are wrong to even think this is a political issue for the election season. again, the constituents don't care and i don't think any party is looking to make this a political issue. i won't overemphasize this point because both parties probably will exploit it if it can help their cause but at the moment its not an election issue. not everything in washington is one. sorry to dissapoint.

May 17, 1954. Brown v. Board of Education has a mixed legacy 51 years after it was decided. On the one hand, there is universal agreement that Brown was correctly decided, and its symbolic importance in breaking down formal barriers in society is unparalleled. On the other hand, schools today are more segregated than they were when Brown was handed down

do me a favor and cite one source. just one source on that. i will let you discover the idiocy of that last comment on your own.

hmm...maybe i won't. you are wrong. i am not going to argue how effective brown v. boe, topeka, kansas but to say schools are more segrated now than in the 1950s is just plain ignorance on your part. in almost every school district in this country (even the northeast) segregation was present. maybe it wasn't legally enforced but it was there. to argue that schools are more segregated now...wow. you make sling's last post not seem so bad (sorry sling, but that last post will not be one i will forget for a while).

Massachusetts voters endorsed the decision in the next election by giving control of the state legislature to pro-gay marriage forces, ensuring the defeat of the movement to amend the state constitution.

err. don't make it sound so simple. all mass. residents did was elect democrats like they always do and because democrats believe they have to endorse every single fringe issue out there, they pushed forward the gay marriage amendment. people didn't go to the polls to elect them because of their views on gay marriages. well, only gay people probably but thats probably the majority of people who voted mostly because of a politicians views on marriage.

the real question should be whether the time has come to change the rules of the Senate for their own sake.

that actually is being discussed now. the filibuster is part of the issue but i am sure that question has been asked quite often over the past few months. actually, i think the question has been asked a lot since the republicans took control of the government after nov. 2004.

now onto my comments (that don't include any corrections of your work):

i really only have one for today. i hope the supreme court does make a decision on gay marriages. actually, i hope they push for a decision on outlawing all marriages all together. i now marriages have been apart of our society for centuries but it doesn't change marriages are a religous construct and no marriages of any form should be recognized by the state (our state). you know i think marriage is a legitimate thing but i think you should only get married in a church in accordance with your religous beliefs. instead, the state should acknowledge civil unions. what is a civil union - i will leave that up to the states and federal government. i think this would solve many of our differences. many people are up in arms over gay marriages because it clashes with their religous values. why not just get rid of the marriage term when it comes to the state and this way the state isn't passing laws pertaining to marriage and thus reduce the risk of offending those who do not like the juxtapositioning of the terms gay and marriage.

5/18/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Filibusters are so important! What if there is a party in power that brainwashed its constituents to keep re-electing it and there is a minority of righteous Senators who don’t have the votes to kill an evil bill?

5/18/2005 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger putonyourspecs said...

In response to Anonymous: yes, you are right that the filibuster can kill some ill-considered bills. But it can also kill "good" bills. The Southern filibuster delayed enactment of the Civil Rights Act for many years. Think about it this way. Suppose that Democrats controlled everything and Republicans were in the minority, and Republicans wanted to filibuster a bill that you favor. Would you still support the filibuster? The reason why the debate about the filibuster has been so tortured is that people's positions on the filibuster depend on who is in power.

In response to the Bum: A quick (not comprehensive) search of academic materials on Brown shows only that schools are more segregated than they have been in the last 30 years. Although I have heard people talk about how schools today are more segregated than when Brown was decided, and I see some hits on Google that suggest as much, I'm willing to concede Bum's point because my point about Brown holds regardless of whether or not the statement about Brown is in fact true. The fact remains that many schools are deeply segregated and black students still receive generally poorer quality of education than do whites.

As for state politics in Massachusetts, not all Democrats in even this bluest of states support gay marriage. Democrats controlled the state legislature last year and passed the amendment against gay marriage. But they had to pass it again after elections before it could go to the people for ratification, and pro-gay marriage forces gained control of the legislature and stopped this amendment movement in its tracks. However you want to interpret the election results, the fact is indisputable that a large number of people in Massachusetts support gay marriage and this measure of popular support is why the state supreme court decision remains good law.

5/18/2005 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger The Critics said...

Evil bills? Dont let them run loose!

Really, stop letting people post anonymously, it just lets more idiots on, despite the fact that your blog is already rampant with these.

I distinctly recall a comment about posts being too long, and thus nobody reads them...

5/19/2005 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger bum from jersey said...

i agree w/ mr. terps. i am one of the idiots he talks about but at least you can hold me accountable while you can't hold anonymous people accountable.

5/19/2005 04:58:00 PM  

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