It Only Counts If Your Party Cares

(cc photo by kevindooley)

Duncan Black: “I can instantly invoke, sadly, a looped memory of Cokie Roberts uttering what was the beltway chant at the time, ‘up or down vote up or down vote up or down vote up or down vote up or vote,’ a phrase which only appears to be operative when Democrats control the Senate.”

I sympathize with this, but I think this is an instance of blaming the media for what’s really a problem of political leadership. Barack Obama and his administration have made very little effort to stigmatize filibustering. Nor have the key members of the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate. Harry Reid has only mildly flirted with criticizing filibustering, moderates have strenuously opposed the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass key legislation, and in general Senate Democrats have spent the majority of the 111th Congress seeing the filibuster as a key tool for their own empowerment.

It’s been great to see a handful of newer Senators—most notably Jeff Merkely and the Udalls—take the lead in pressing for reform. But any time you see very junior senators taking the lead on something, the negative space speaks volumes. The effort to deligitimize anti-Bush filibusters was led by Majority Leader Bill Frist and President George W Bush, not by backbenchers.