Elizabeth Warren Knows Where To Stick Your Filibuster
Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts sat down with Teen Vogue, a pillar in political reporting (seriously), to discuss the state of the country. She's never been one to take the ostrich approach to electoral politics. She understands that we're in deep shit and saying it smells like roses won't get us out.
Warren considers the For the People Act, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the Women's Health Protection Act as legislative must-haves if we're going to adequately defend ourselves against the Republican Party's not-so-secret agenda. She argues that a "right-wing minority in this country has pushed for the appointment of a federal bench that is hostile" to voting rights and reproductive choice.
The Supreme Court is poised either to undercut Roe even further, or to overturn it altogether. They've already gutted a big part of the Voting Rights Act.
It's no secret that the Right's longterm goal was establishing a conservative Supreme Court and federal bench, which along with the Electoral College and the Senate's structural bias would "move the country in a direction where the majority does not want to go," specifically 1940s Alabama.
We can thwart that by having a Congress that shows a little more courage and that steps up and, by statute, protects the vote and protects access to abortion. This is within our hands.
It might seem like Warren's unrealistic and that she should consider her Democratic colleague Joe Manchin's stirring appeal for bipartisan unity. However, Manchin partying with Republicans on
his Washington DC houseboat probably isn't going to help much against the myriad GOP voter suppression bills that Senator Raphael Warnock sagely described as the “Delta variant of Jim Crow voting laws." Nailing the dismount, Warnock added that the "only vaccination is
(more cowbell) federal vaccination."
Teen Vogue asked Warren about her visit with the Texas Democrats who fled the state to block immediate passage of GOP voter suppression bills clearly targeted at people of color.
TEEN VOGUE: You had a lot of encouragement for them, but you also said, "The moment is upon us. It is not enough for us [in Congress] to say that 'we support you.' We must change the law." How hopeful are you that we will see that and see an end to the filibuster?
WARREN: I have been fighting for a long time to get rid of the filibuster. And I want to see Congress do that. I think it's the right thing to do. The founders of this nation figured out when a supermajority should be necessary and when it shouldn't. They said that for regular legislation, that a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and the president who will sign the bill means it should become law. The exceptions they created were for treaties that overruled state law and impeachments. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives Mitch McConnell a veto over what Congress does. I would like to see us do this immediately.
It's probably not intentional but I appreciate that Warren implies Mitch McConnell was slithering around during the nation's founding. It's also appreciated that she straight-up rejects the filibuster as anti-democratic. Majority rule is a good thing, and no matter what Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema infuriatingly claim, the filibuster doesn't defend “minority" rights, unless we're now considering white Republicans a protected class. And enough with the “wah, wah, what if Republicans have a narrow majority and can do terrible things without the filibuster!" As comedian Trae Crowder said, “Only a damn moderate Democrat would be planning on a future defeat." Democrats will never win another election if all they can offer is some drab Medium Place where nothing bad happens but not much good does, either.
Besides, we all know Republicans will blow up the filibuster the first chance it's convenient for them and blame Democrats. Don't shoot your pistol in the air and expect those assholes to do the same. That's how you wind up super dead like Alexander Hamilton.
I disagree with Warren, though, when she claims there's a middle ground between the GOP's tyranny from the minority and killing the filibuster outright. She mentions restoring the talking filibuster, but do we really want to listen to Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley drone on for hours? If Ohio sends Josh Mandel to the Senate, I doubt he'll have a problem running his mouth for Jesus. She also suggests allowing filibuster exceptions for “important" issues, which is hella subjective and Democrats have already fallen for that banana in the tailpipe during the George W. Bush era.
Warren argues that Republican obstruction over voting rights legislation, despite good-faith efforts from Democrats, has made Democrats in general more open to reforming the filibuster. If this is true, we need to hear more from senators such as Jeff Merkley from Oregon, who recalls interning with a Republican senator in the 1970s and how the GOP didn't abuse the filibuster as a matter of course. Democrats have allowed Republicans, with Sinema and Manchin's willing assistance, to cast themselves as institutionalists when McConnell's GOP are the true radicals who twisted the Senate to advance his agenda.
Read the rest of Warren's Teen Vogue interview and remind yourself how badass she is.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."