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Blame Americans First

Democrats lose patience with democracy.

Mar 1, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 23 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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The culprit is the Senate, which gives equal say to states with small populations and requires 60 votes to pass legislation. Fallows says these minority rights have turned the Senate “into a deep freeze and a dead weight.” “America is not yet lost,” Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times, “but the Senate is working on it.” In a Huffington Post blog, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, writes that special interests are “using the filibuster to stop legislation that would benefit the little guy,” whether the little guy likes it or not.

You can make a persuasive argument that the filibuster has been deployed too frequently in recent years, especially when it has prevented presidents, Republican and Democrat, from staffing their administrations. Nevertheless, the Senate and the filibuster are there for good reasons: to defuse momentary passions that could have unintended and harmful consequences for the country.

The system is designed to ensure broad consensus before Congress enacts major reforms. Such consensus existed during the New Deal and Great Society. And there was consensus behind certain elements of Reagan’s and Bush’s and Clinton’s programs, as well. That was not the case when George W. Bush attempted to overhaul Social Security, however. The public agreed with Bush that there was a problem, but it did not like his solution. It has had the same reaction to Obama’s proposals.

The liberal program is in disarray because liberals have failed to establish general agreement. They have found that simple majorities do not automatically translate into programmatic success. And when they are met with public opposition and institutional resistance, they do what comes naturally. They blame Americans first.

Matthew Continetti is associate editor of The Weekly Standard and the author, most recently, of The Persecution of Sarah Palin (Sentinel Books).

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