July 23, 2021

A DANGEROUS POWER GRAB

In an unprecedented move the Democratic Party led Senate, changed the filibuster rule that has been practiced for over 200 years, as it applies to judicial and other presidential nominees with an exception for the Supreme Court.    The flavor of the day among political commentators is that this move was made in an attempt to distract from the disastrous implementation of Obamacare.    If so, it was a very shortsighted decision, as it is clear to all that actually read this monstrosity, the basic structure of the law is terminally flawed.    Even those who were added to the existing Medicaid program will soon find out that shortage of Doctors will lead for long waits for appointments and will force them to use the hospital emergency rooms, precisely the excuse given for the need to act.   

In my opinion, yesterday’s move was a much more ominous one.    Neither our Constitutions nor our founding fathers originated the rule in question.    In fact, both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson disliked the notion of endless talk.    What is clear, as an integral part of our Republic’s philosophy, was the fear that they had of a majority rule dominating the rights of the minority.    This concern was coined tyranny of the majority by Alexis de Tocqueville in a chapter of his classic book on America’s style of democracy.    Both Madison, in the Federalist papers, and Jefferson warned of this possibility especially of the tyranny of the legislature.    It was assumed that the Senate would be the chamber that would stop the potential excesses of the House with ample discussion leading to denial and/or compromise.    Both, House and Senate were to establish their own rules.  

As a suggestion of Aaron Burr in 1789, the Senate in 1806 adopted the statute to allow a Senator to occupy the floor without time limit.    In the year 1917, the cloture regulation was made, changing the endless talk to a 60 vote majority.    Since then this directive has been used many times, most of them judiciously, and ingrained in our culture by the classic James Steward movie Mr. Smith goes to Washington.    It is important to note that our Founders thought that the fear of becoming a minority after an election would be a powerful deterrent against abuses as what goes around comes around.  

I believe it was Senator Burr that said that if the dominant party would have the ability to change the rules, this would happen so frequent that there would be no rules.     In recent times, both parties have increased the use of the cloture regulation, and are guilty of blatant hypocrisy by changing their statements as the situations differ.    The end result has been a steady increase of presidential executive powers.    Never though, it has been as blatant as during this administration.    Obama, a self proclaimed Constitutional lawyer said when Senator “I am also aware that the Founders Fathers established the filibuster as a means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority, and that protection, with some changes have been in place for over 200 years”.   

When the Republican Party threatened, but not acted, to change the cloture rule, Senator Obama said “if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse”.    What a difference time makes!    Now he supports the Senate’s action “a majority of senators believe as I believe, that enough is enough”,this gridlock has not served the cause of justice, in fact is has undermined it”.    If you are under the illusion that we are still living under a Democratic Republic as our forefathers envisioned, which has resulted in our country’s freedom and greatness, Obama’s statement yesterday should bring you chills.    It was clear that his wish for absolute power does not end with the avoidance of filibuster for his nominees.    It will soon include the legislation.   He wants; these are his words, “up and down votes on bills devoted to immigration, gun control, equal pay for women”, among others.    And what reason does he gives for this need to stop the opposing party “it has harmed our economy, our democracy”, “prevents American peoples business from getting done”, “to obstruct everything no matter the merits, to re-fight the results of an election”.    These are a few samples of his true desires.   

It is irrelevant that the opposing Representatives and Senators were also elected.    It is he the one chosen to decide what our economy and/or Democracy needs.    Only he knows what American people want and wishes done.    Who better than him to tell us what is meritorious.    As a young man I witnessed a charismatic leader, mostly unknown and inexperienced, assume power.    In the name of his popularity and leadership he defined opposing views as being against the people, the majority, and Democracy.    He would be the only one to opine, as he had the only truth.    His name is Fidel Castro.    If you have not lived that experience, please take heed from those that have.    Believe these words “he knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices, we are going to change our conversation, we are going to have to change our traditions, our history, and we are going to have to move to a different place as a nation”.    It was not Che talking about Fidel.    It was Michelle Obama in a campaign speech on May 14, 2006 referring to her husband Barrack.

Fernando J Milanes MD

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