Monday, December 19, 2005

Sen Paul Douglas: "Everyone in his heart knows that it is a disgrace"

A quote from Sen Paul Douglas's maiden speech as a US Senator speaking against the Wherry resolution. Found on page 57 of Roger Biles Crusading Liberal.
The Wherry Resolution gives to 33 Senators, now and almost forever more, the power to kill any measure. This means that 17 states can act to preserve a filibuster. This means that a combination of the 17 smallest states, with less than 8 per cent or 1/13 of the population and less than 7 per cent or 1/15 of the income can tie up the Senate and the country and defeat the will of over 90 percent of the people. If we continue along this line, the great qualification of a Senator will be his ability to speak for 24 hours without stopping....Everyone in his heart knows that it is a disgrace.
Not hard to tell he was a U of Chicago Economist with the ratios. He was one of my Dad's favorite politicans.

Cross posted on Illinoize.


Philocrites said...

Douglas entered the Senate when the conservatives in the Senate were largely southern Democrats; today he'd be lobbing this charge at the senators from the same states -- who now happen to be conservative Republicans.

Small-population states often dominate the Senate's agenda because of the two-votes rule -- and these states are simply not the centers of urban liberalism. Douglas's objections apply to Republicans who are governing far to the right of the majority of the population's wishes. The problem he's pointing to is the capacity of conservative constituencies in rural states to dominate the Senate's agenda; liberals simply cannot pull off this particular "17 state" filibuster representing "less than 8 percent."

Why? Because right now, the minority party in the Senate represents the majority of the U.S. population. It's the large states, with urban centers, that are the home turf of the liberals you enjoy criticizing. But because the Constitution stacks the Senate against these very states -- only two votes for you, New York -- Douglas could never have made this particular charge against the current Senate.

E.J. Dionne captured the basic disparity in a Washington Post column in March:

"The 52 senators from the nation's smallest states could command a Senate majority even though they represent only 18 percent of the American population. [Wait! That sounds suspiciously like Paul Douglas!]

"According to the Census Bureau's July 2004 population estimates, the 44 Democratic senators represent 148,026,027 people; the 55 Republican senators 144,765,157. Vermont's Jim Jeffords, an independent who usually votes with the Democrats, represents 310,697. (In these calculations, I evenly divided the population of states with split Senate delegations.) What does majority rule really mean in this context?"

I agree that the filibuster is a strange anachronism -- but I think you must be willfully blind to ignore the transparently political motives of the Republicans. There's no principle involved here, and Bill Frist is no Paul Douglas.

Bill Baar said...

Democratic motives are transparently political too.

The whole Senate is political. Politics isn't immoral. That's what the Senators are there for.

And they should do politics and vote, not filibuster.

If the Democrats can convince people to vote for them, things will go there way.