It's true that there has been a decades-long uptick in the use of cloture filings -- often to overcome filibuster threats -- by whichever party is in the majority, but the best measurement of that trend shows an explosion since Republicans were consigned to minority status after the 2006 election.
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What's particularly striking here is the GOP's use of filibuster threats, and the correlated increase in Democratic cloture motions. Take, for instance, the huge spike in cloture motions filed from the Republican-led 109th Congress in 2005-2006 to the Democratic-majority 110th in 2007-2008.
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When Republicans were a Senate minority in 1991-1992, there were 59 cloture filings. When President Clinton took office, with Republicans remaining the minority in the Senate, that number shot up to 80 in 1993-1994.
When Democrats reclaimed the Senate majority in the 2006 midterm elections, cloture filings shot up from 68 in 2005-2006 to a record 139 in 2007-2008.
And, most notably, the Democrats do NOT show a similar spike when they go into the minority under a Republican president. The numbers stay fairly static.
The lesson to be taken from this: the Democrats seek to follow the rules, but the Republicans seek to make the rules.
The filibuster, far from being the last defense of the people against the powerful, has become the weapon of the powerful to stop the people from acting against them. Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith is not merely fiction, but outright fairy-tale.
And yes, at one point I defended the filibuster. It took the absolute, iron-clad obstructionism of 2009 to open my eyes and realize that not only were the Republicans shameless in their politically driven opposition to everything including serving corned beef in the Congressional cafeteria on Fridays, but that they had set up the rules and traditions to reward that shamelessness.
And, as one of the commentators almost but not quite pointed out, this shamelessness stems in part from the fact that the Republican Party, as a unit, regards itself at war with everyone who disagrees with them- no holds barred, no quarter, no prisoners:
The (Republicans) were not being cute in referring to the "Reagan Revolution." They were seriously waging a long, silent revolution against the underpinnings of that "We The People" government of ours.
They've been waging war all along and it's just now becoming clear how serious they are about their revolution now that the middle and left are attempting to reassert control over the country once more.
There is zero serendipity, nada coincidence that there has been such rabid hate talk from the Right, urging their authoritarian followers to stock up on guns and ammo and labeling anyone who doesn't conform to their radical vision of a corporatocracy ruling subservient masses as Hitler, Nazi, Socialist, Stalinist, Terrorists' Pal or any other title that begs the response "and we know what Hitler deserved... !"
So far, because we fail to recognize they are conducting war on us, we have been bringing knives to a gun fight.
And, as I mentioned on LJ just before reviving this blog, there are some Republicans openly calling for the armed overthrow of the government if they don't control it.
It's time for someone to go to war right back at the Republicans. And if the Democrats don't have the balls to do it (and most likely they don't), then it's time for a third way- long past time, in fact.