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Massachusetts Values and the Filibuster: A Short History

At a recent interview using Axios, Elizabeth Warren whined that the Senate filibuster has”deep roots in racism” and then lambasted it for providing”a veto to the minority” Warren does not doubt that the filibuster was designed for the sole intent of giving”that the South the capacity to veto any civil rights legislation or anti-lynching legislation” All these are serious complaints against a rule that, established in 1806, has for more than two hundred years given life to the Senate’s identity as”the world’s greatest deliberative body”
If Warren is correct that the filibuster has always been solely a weapon for homeless Southerners, then one would anticipate that Senators from Massachusetts have constantly been at the forefront of efforts to ruin the filibuster rule. An individual might be surprised, then, to learn that one of Warren’s predecessors as a Massachusetts Senator a century ago–Henry Cabot Lodge–had a very distinct perspective of this filibuster and, therefore, of the Senate as an institution. Although Lodge had railed against Senate obstruction because a young Congressman in 1893, he afterwards confessed that”in a year or 2″ of his ascension into the Senate, he’d concluded that the filibuster was a smart practice and that its annihilation could”change completely the character of the Senate.” Lodge claimed that the filibuster was not merely a disposable procedural rule, but a practice that followed naturally in the structural doctrine of this United States Senate, which he revered for its emphasis on deliberation, minority rights, and traditionalism.
The Senate Is Not the House
Although he is well-known due to his successful struggle in 1919 as Senate Majority Leader to help keep America out of the League of Nations, Lodge was also a multi-purpose historian and political thinker. He was one of the first citizens of the United States to be given a Ph.D. in history and government, and–even while he served as a Senator–his own scholarly output was impressive. Inconveniently for Elizabeth Warren, Lodge was also a company New Englander in the two his ancestry and his own intellectual commitments, therefore his defense of the filibuster cannot readily be dismissed as a specious rationalization for both Southern slavocracy. Though this invoice suffered defeat at the hands of a partisan Democratic filibuster, Lodge didn’t let his disappointment to modify his perspective of the filibuster rule. “I was profoundly and deeply curious about the force bill, as it was called,” he reflected at a Senate speech at 1903:
I had it accountable in the House of Representatives and that I saw it defeated this floor by means of obstruction. But, Mr. President, I’d much rather take the odds of occasional obstruction than to place the Senate at the place where bills could be driven through underneath rules which might be absolutely essential in a large body such as the House of Representatives or at the House of Commons, but that are not necessary here. I think here we ought to possess, minority and majority alike, the fullest possibility of disagreement.
Lodge didn’t regard the Senate filibuster as a tool to entrench minority rule but rather maintained that it was a way of improving and refining majority rule. The filibuster assured that the”majority in this Senate” will be”something more than a numerical majority at any given moment.” Lodge recognized that the Senate’s protections for discussion provided minorities and majorities alike with all the potential to enhance the public mind on proposed legislation. Members could bring every one of a bill’s effects to the attention of these people before the next election. The vote threshold to end filibusters, established in 1917, could inspire the vast majority party to construct a true majority coalition for bills–not simply a narrow or varying majority–by working to obtain some support by members of the minority party. The best value of this filibuster rested from that it guaranteed that there could be”a single body in the authorities at which disagreement cannot be shut off at the will of a partisan majority.”
The Senate was created to represent”a political thing as different as possible” in the House of Representatives–specifically, the states.Lodge would definitely lament recent adjustments to the filibuster that have deemphasized disagreement on the floor by political minoritiesturning it into a mere procedural mechanism to kill bills. Even the filibuster as Lodge understood it functioned best as it eased discussion on the Senate floor and–known in this light–Joe Biden’s recent proposal to reestablish the”talking filibuster” may be surprisingly in keeping with the traditions of the upper room as Lodge knew themso long as it isn’t a stepping stone into radical alterations. In demanding members of this minority to stay on the floor and talk for hours at a time, the talking filibuster takes a burden on the minority. On the flip side, most must stay on the floor and think about the views of this minority Senator. Trade-offs exist for the majority and the minority. Although the potential for obstruction nevertheless stays, Lodge would hold that this potential is outweighed by the fact that all reservations to bills may be ascribed into the people with no slender majority shutting down discussion. Lodge would never sanction the abandonment of this filibuster in favor of absolute majority rule, but he’d likely have severe reservations with the”quiet filibuster” for downplaying discussion and being much more liable to abuse.
Lodge indicated that efforts to abolish the filibuster indicated a basic misunderstanding of the Senate as an institution. Each member of the home of Representatives is elected biannually, in order that body has a very real mandate to state the shifting mood of the country’s voters with prompt legislation. The filibuster rule could thus be completely inappropriate there, especially given that the House’s vast size exacerbated the possibility of abuse by obstructionists. Lodge claimed, however, that the Senate is fundamentally distinct from the House in its structure and mission. The Senate does not represent”a vast majority of Republicans put off in random districts,” as the House of Representatives does. Nor does the Senate plan to let majority rule to be”rashly or exercised.” In reality, Lodge insisted the the Senate have been represent the states as unique political societies–maybe perhaps not the vast majority of the country’s voters–and he expressed that one of its most profound purposes was to look at the rash legislation that would inevitably be produced by the House of Representatives.
Unlike Warren’s proclamation that the intention behind this Senate is to promote majority rule, Lodge claimed that the Senate was never designed to institutionalize the rule of the majority of Republicans across the nation. The Senate was created to represent”a political thing as different as possible” in the House of Representatives–namely, the nations. The Senate was written”not of representatives of hot constituencies, but of the ambassadors of sovereign States.” The distinctive constituency of this Senate, to Lodge, accounted for its power and prestige as an institution. “One great secret of this potency and influence of this Senate,” Lodge commented,”has become the fact that it didn’t represent exactly the same constituencies as the House of Representatives.” Because the Senate represents nations by devoting equal representation irrespective of people, it’s impossible to assert that it was designed to express a purist notion of national majority rule. To the contrary, the Senate’s aim was to guard the rights of taxpayers in smallish nations from tyrannical actions by the powerful national majorities that could dominate the lower room. The implications of this fact for the filibuster rule are massive. As Lodge perceived it, the filibuster aligned using the important mission of this Senate–specifically, to protect governmental minorities from potentially tyrannical decisions by political majorities.
To Lodge, the equality of these states in the Senate was not merely a peripheral feature of the Constitution. Without it,”there probably will have been no Constitution in any way.” He confessed that the equality of these states was not, as Warren and others of her ilk could think, made by Southern slaveholders at the Constitutional Convention. Lodge commended Ellsworth and Sherman for recognizing at the Convention that”the single path to success lay by means of grafting a new administration upon the State government” For Lodge, as for Ellsworth and Sherman, the states were more than just artificial entities that gathered individual voters into districts that are convenient. The states were exceptional political societies with their own customs, customs, and traditions, and each mightily contributed to the overall health of the federal republic. Lodge contested whether the federal authorities may be really representative when it gave the states no more other voice in the affairs of authorities. “Even the abolition of these States,” he emphasized,”would mean the reduction or the ruin of this fantastic principle of local self-government, which is located at the very root of free popular authorities and of true democracy.”

In the event the equality of these states in the Senate was not enough to indicate that the upper room represented the conditions, the first manner of appointment to get Senators explained this fact beyond all doubt. Lodge recognized the Framers for their wisdom in providing state legislatures the right to pick reluctantly, the mode of election that surfaced before the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. Because Senators reacted to this state legislatures, the Senate served as a sober institution, one insulated against the brutal passions of national partisan politics. Lodge argued that, historically, the participation of this state legislatures from the range of Senators generated able legislators who gave”potency and persistence” into the administration of authorities in the United States.
Lodge prediction that the Seventeenth Amendment would harm the”caliber and personality” of the Senate by providing its members of an interest in winning popular re-election contests compared to forging laws to state that the deliberative will of the country.The staggered six-year term in office for Senators, in combination with their frequent reappointment by the state legislatures, made guys who”had conditions of service ranging from twelve to more than thirty years.” Their extended service gave them a vested interest in the establishment of the Senate, much less a mere stage to conduct a viable presidential campaign, however as a deliberative institution that appreciated stability, tradition, and persistence. Established and unbroken since 1806, the filibuster has been only one of several principles, for Lodge, that reflected”the conservatism of the Senate.”
Lodge resented that, in his own time, the Senate was under siege by famous reformers. The Progressives were deeply uneasy with the Senate because of its structural significance of federalism and traditionalism, and they fought for the direct election of Senators to make the upper room more immediately responsive to the will of the country’s voters. Lodge called in 1902 that when the Progressives successfully resisted the Constitution to pick up by direct popular vote”the most revolutionary revolution imaginable will take place within our form of government” As he explained:
We alone among the countries possessing representative authorities have fully solved the issue of an upper House resting upon an independent foundation and effectual in legislation. In the event the Senate is placed upon precisely exactly the identical foundation as the House and can be chosen in precisely exactly the identical way by precisely exactly the identical constituency, its character and meaning depart, the States will be hopelessly weakened, the balance of this Constitution will be ruined, centralization will advance with giant strides, and that we shall enter upon a phase of constitutional revolution of that the conclusion cannot be foretold.
Lodge feared that the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment could saturate the public’s understanding of this Senate as an institution. Because the equality of these nations stayed, he thought that the Amendment failed to abrogate the fundamental, non-majoritarian principle of the Senate; namely, representation for the states rather than national majorities. But he forecast that the Amendment might harm the”caliber and personality” of the Senate by providing its members of an interest in winning hot re-election contests compared to forging laws to mention that the deliberative will of the country. Additionally, with the states exiled in the assortment of Senators, the upper room would erroneously start to perceive itself primarily as a majoritarian, federal body instead of as a federalist institution based upon deliberation and consensus. Lodge ominously prediction that the success of the Seventeenth Amendment would eventually inspire the people to abolish different characteristics of their constitutional system that promoted local self-government, such as the Electoral College and the prestige of the states from the Senate.
Over a hundred years following the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, the Democratic Senate leadership is seriously contemplating abolishing the filibuster, one of the remaining vestiges of the institution’s deliberative past. Elizabeth Warren, that holds the exact same Senate seat that Lodge once did, expects to ruin the filibuster to thrust the”For the Individuals Act of 2021″ via Congress with as little deliberation as you can. In doing this, Warren and her allies have been indulging in a very long literary heritage of advancing radical shift to the American governmental system at the title of”the people.” Lodge himself noticed in 1911 which Progressives spoke”constantly about trusting the people and obeying the people’s will.” In fact he averred,”that isn’t what they seek.” The true aim of Progressivism was going to ensconce the rule of a”slim, exploding, and changing majority” at the expense of the long term, steady, and deliberative are of the American men and women.
Lodge argued that the supposedly democratic agenda of this Progressives would invariably end in the passage of”legislation of the most revolutionary, the most radical personality”–not legislation reflecting the genuine consensus of the whole society.As the American men and women face a Congress that is bent on living up to those dark predictions, they’d do well to look at the admonitions of Henry Cabot Lodge a century ago.