Let the filibuster die.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
April 19 2005 6:11 PM

Let the Filibuster Die

Why Bill Frist's "nuclear option" doesn't go far enough.

(Continued from Page 1)

Well, if each of every state's two senators is taken to represent half that state's population, then the Senate's fifty-five Republicans represent 131 million people, while its forty-four Democrats represent 161 million. Looked at another way, the present Senate is the product of three elections, those of 2000, 2002, and 2004. [That's because one-third of the Senate faces re-election every two years.] In those elections, the total vote for Democratic senatorial candidates, winning and losing, was 99.7 million; for Republicans it was 97.3 million. The forty-four person Senate Democratic minority, therefore, represents a two-million-plus popular majority—a circumstance that, unless acres trump people, is at variance with common-sense notions of democracy. So Democrats, as democrats, need not feel too terribly guilty about engaging in a spot of filibustering from time to time.

It's a clever argument—the antidemocratic nature of Senate representation creates a phony Republican majority that Democrats are justified in thwarting. But the perfect is the enemy of the good. The Senate ought to be eliminated, but it's a pretty good bet that it isn't going to be. That being the case, why not reach for the low-hanging fruit? I feel confident that if the Democrats had a Senate majority, Hertzberg would agree with me that it's time to democratize the Senate as best we know how.

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Correction, April 20, 2005:An earlier version of this column erroneously stated that the GOP holds 56 Senate seats. (Return to corrected sentence).

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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