Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Blame it on Schuyler Colfax

The Filibuster.

With thanks to the Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology:

In the middle of the nineteenth century bands of adventurers organized in the United States were in Central America and the West Indies, stirring up revolutions.
Such an adventurer came to be known in English as a filibuster, from the Spanish filibustero. The word had originated in Dutch, as vrijbuiter. Its travels on the way from Dutch to Spanish are uncertain, but it is likely that the Spanish borrowed the word from the French, flibustier, fribustier, who apparently got it from the English freebooter. Early in the nineteenth century, John Randolph, a senator from Virginia, got into the habit of making long and irrelevant speeches on the floor of the Senate. The Senate got so fed up with such tactics that it voted to give the presiding officer explicit power to deal with such problems. In 1872, however, Vice President Schuyler Colfax struck a blow against the expeditious handling of Senate business with his ruling that “under the practice of the Senate the presiding officer could not restrain a Senator in remarks which the Senator considers pertinent to the pending issue.”

Good old VP Colfax! Unfortunately, the filibuster is getting a bad rap these days, with Bill "I Swear I'm Presidential" Frist championing the effort to fundamentally alter the practice. My short summation of Senator Frist? He, with all due respect, is a complete ass.

Doesn't he get it?! The GOP will be in the minority again (or perhaps he doesn't believe that?), and the GOP will need the filibuster. Is he really so fat headed and drunk with power that he can't possibly envision a day when his party will no longer be in the majority and will be grateful for the filibuster's protection of the minority? Throughout this whole debate I've vacillated between wanting to march alone outside his office with a picket sign accusing him of a brazen power grab (What does the Haggis want? Common sense! When does she want it?! NOW!), and saying "Feh! Have at it, Fristie. When we beat your party next time around, you can cry yourself to sleep on your huge pillow about your self-inflicted impotence."

Now, I just think the entire debate demonstrates The Hill's complete lack of sense, real interest in ordinary Americans, and fidelity to their oaths of office. It's a farce. And it would be funny if it weren't Chapter Three in a book called "The Antics of a Dying Democracy."

Heaven help us. Or perhaps I should call on the divine powers of Senator Frist?


misterfed said...

Check out this post on Talking Points Memo, which explains something about the GOP's rationale and method for axeing the filibuster that I didn't know:

As for Frist, well, he may be a dope, but he keeps the cats in line.

Edgar Newt said...

Frist doesn't believe that the GOP will be in the minority in the Senate. Sadly, given recent demographic growth trends, he may be right.

I do agree, however, that the loss of the Filibuster will have its own chapter in the Death of American Democracy, and will not just be a footnote (or an endnote if such book is prepared (written is too expansive a word) by Ann Coulter).

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