The Genius of Obstructionism


Via Jon Chait, an interesting Pew survey reveals that just 26 percent of Americans know that it takes sixty votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

I don’t find that surprising, but it’s good to see it quantified. It’s also worth pointing out that one of the major failings of most political journalism is a perennial tendency to overstate the American people’s level of knowledge about politics. You never hear the impact of public ignorance about the filibuster discussed as a factor in the president’s fortunes. But I’d say the fact that people don’t understand how this works is an important element of what makes it so effective. To a small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is a heroic stand. To another small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is an undemocratic disaster. But to the majority of Americans it’s completely invisible and all they see is a Democratic Party that can’t get things done.

Meanwhile to continue a theme from yesterday, if you want a less-corrupt government it’s crucial that the public have some capacity to hold elected officials to account. When there are too many elected officials to keep track of that undermines accountability. And it’s the same with procedure—when there are major elements of our system of government that people aren’t aware of, that makes elected officials less accountable and opens the door to corruption.