Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
A new Democratic president, elected on promises of unity and bipartisanship, suddenly pushes policies much more divisive and extreme than voters were led to expect.
Congressional Republicans and moderate Democrats call for compromise. Liberals dismiss them as obstructionists (and worse). The standoff stalls the Democrats’ agenda in the Senate, where thanks to the sixty-vote rule (often called the filibuster rule), supermajorities — which usually require a least a few votes from the minority party — are needed to make or change laws.
The extreme left is demanding Senate Democrats abuse their power — to neuter the filibuster rule, so they can pass their left-wing wish list with only 51 (all Democrat) votes.
Momentum builds for the so-called “nuclear option” — blowing up the filibuster by breaking Senate rules and decades of bipartisan tradition.
And then a senator from West Virginia stands up to defend the institution and the vital role it plays in our system of government.
“As I have said before,” the senator says, “the Senate has been the last fortress of minority rights and freedom of speech in this sepublic for more than two centuries. I pray that senators will pause and reflect before ignoring that history and tradition in favor of the political priority of the moment.”
The year was 2010. The senator who spoke those words, the legendary Robert Byrd, died just a few weeks later, after 51 years serving West Virginia in the United States Senate.
Today, the man who sits in Byrd’s old seat, Joe Manchin, finds himself in the same spot.
Once again, liberal Democrats elected on promises of unity are trying to pass an extreme agenda through Congress. And once again, the Senate is doing its job, forcing compromise and consensus over partisan power-plays.
In that 2010 essay, Byrd quoted James Madison, arguing at the Constitutional Convention that the purpose of the Senate was “first, to protect the people against their rulers, secondly, to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.”
21st century leftists like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say that the filibuster has to go because Founders could have never imagined the obstructionism in the Senate today. That’s absurd.
The Founders divided federal authority between three branches of government for a reason. They wanted different political parties, economic interests, and geographic regions to check and balance the others’ desire for power.
They created the Senate specifically to protect minorities, unfashionable values and communities, and small states like West Virginia from being dominated by self-righteous elites.
The people who want to get rid of the filibuster are precisely the people the Founders wanted to protect us from!
The Senate’s 60-vote requirement to end debate and pass most legislation is frustrating to small majorities. But that’s the point! Small, temporary majorities aren’t supposed to be able to impose their will on a diverse, divided country.
Remember, Democrats were supposed to win blowouts across the country last November. But despite the media’s confident predictions, Democrats ended up losing seats in the House of Representatives and state legislatures, and only splitting the Senate.
Do such results suggest the American people voted for radical policy disruptions written by partisan extremists from New York and San Francisco? For a Washington takeover of state voting laws? For the Green New Deal or outlawing girls-only sports?
After a long, hard year fighting through the pain of a recession and the isolation of the COVID pandemic, people want solutions, not more political nonsense.
To his credit, Sen. Manchin seems to understand all this — including the rare leverage the situation gives him and his state. Manchin has promised over and over again to protect the Senate’s rules — just as Robert Byrd did.
He wants to do the right thing. But the pressure on him is mounting. Washington liberals are tired of waiting.
They don’t believe the Party of Donald Trump deserves a seat at the table. With their embrace of “cancel culture” intolerance, Democratic leaders have rejected consensus and compromise with conservatives and moderates like… Joe Manchin.
They believe the gentleman from West Virginia is the last man standing between them and the power they crave. In truth, Joe Manchin is the last man defending Robert Byrd’s “fortress of minority rights and free speech in this Republic.”
We should all hope Senator Manchin is as faithful to his word as his predecessor.