Friday, December 24, 2010

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In Defense of the Filibuster

Pajamas Media » In Defense of the Filibuster

The problem with the use of the filibuster in the last century stems from the changed role of the Senate. Before 1913 the Senators were selected by their State Legislatures. The passage of the XVIIth Amendment converted the Senate from a council of ambassadors plenipotentiary sent by sovereign states in a federal system to a collection of glorified political operatives and elected functionaries in a unitary bureaucracy.

The role of the Senate has unfortunately become conflated in the popular imagination with the issue of racism. That was unfortunately caused by the efforts of leaders of the Democratic Party in the 19th century to first use the power of the federal government to defend slavery through the Fugitive Slave Act, then to weaken the government through nullification and finally to dissolve it through secession. The resulting Civil War reduced all the States' authority and rendered them incapable of resisting the erosion of their role.

This was accelerated by two factors. First was the industrial and commercial expansion of the nation and the attendant corruption of state governments that discredited them. The second, which accompanied the corruption of the states, was the rise of the railroads and the expansion of the power of the federal government as Congress invoked the Commerce Clause. These combined to fuel the Progressive Movement that promoted the XVIIth Amendment.

This is how the States were turned into cogs in a centralized apparatus of administration. That process was accelerated under the New Deal and the corruption that had afflicted the States flowed up to infect the national government. Wherever there is money and power there will be corruption and abuse but the centralization of government and the expansion of the sums involved have dramatically expanded the venality of the participants while removing the protections that a jealous federalism had afforded.

Since there is no magic virtue that adheres to either employment in the federal or a state body all the vices of racism, corruption, and factionalism that afflicted the states and which a proper federal system could ameliorate are now concentrated in a central reservoir. The federal system was part of the "Forest of the Law" that sheltered individual Liberty as described by Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons." The Progressives cut down the forest when they enacted the XVIIth Amendment.

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