Monday, May 16, 2005

On the suspension of debate

Changing the rules of the Senate to suspend debate on unpopular judicial appointments opens up a danger to our democracy such that we have never suffered by any foreign power.

Critics (including myself) can scream until we are purple in the face about what a cesspool the well of the Senate is, but it's the system we have.

My favorite Churchill quote:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.

Those who suggest that changing the rules of the people's legislature is acceptable have another agenda altogether in mind, and it will ultimately lead to only one conclusion: the ability to silence criticism, to eliminate debate by a party's opponents, and to declare unusual circumstances as a justification to rule completely by decree.

In short, ending the option to "filibuster" will mean the end of democracy.

Here's a little reminder from history:
Article 48 was a measure in the constitution of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919–1933) that allowed the President to rule by decree. The article is worded as follows:

Art. 48. If a state fails to perform the duties imposed upon it by the federal constitution or by federal law, the President . . . may enforce performance with the aid of the armed forces. If public order and security are seriously disturbed or endangered within the Federation, the President . . . may take all necessary steps for their restoration, intervening, if need be, with the aid of the armed forces. For the said purpose he may suspend for the time being, either wholly or in part, the fundamental rights described in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153. The President . . . has to inform the Reichstag without delay of any steps taken in virtue of the first and second paragraphs of this article. The measures to be taken are to be withdrawn upon the demand of the Reichstag. Where delay is dangerous a state government may take provisional measures of the kind described in paragraph 2 for its own territory. Such measures are to be withdrawn upon the demand of the President . . . or of the Reichstag. . . .

Article 48 was invoked by such champions of the Weimar Republic as Heinrich Bruening, the last chancellor of Germany to defend democracy before the Nazi takeover. Though he loved democracy, even Bruening often used Article 48 to get legislation through the splintered, divisive Reichstag. Later, it was an appointed chancellor who invoked Article 48 to consolidate power, Adolf Hitler.

More quotable Churchill:
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.


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