The Grand Tradition of the Bluff

Lee Harris has an interesting and measured piece about the deep historical context for the current filibuster fight.

America has survived not because it is a democracy, but because it has managed to keep its democratic upheavals in check, at least for much of its history, and it has done this through an amazing array of tricks and devices, none of which crossed the minds of the men who wrote and signed the Constitution of the United States. One of these tricks was the decision of John Marshall to make the Supreme Court of the United States the final interpreter of the Constitution for all the states in the union, as opposed to having the Supreme Court of each state be the final arbiter for itself alone — something the Constitution left undecided. Another of these tricks was the development of the filibuster as a method to hold at bay majorities that wished to ride rough shod over minorities. Another was the trick of forcing cloture on those who abused the right to filibuster during a time of national emergency and crisis.

…This means that, in the ultimate analysis, how we evaluate this new trick [the nuclear option] will depend entirely on whether it turns out to be effective in its purpose.

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