Friday, November 19, 2004

On Changing the Rules

I hope I shook up a few sleepy heads last evening, when I agreed with Tom DeLay that if a simple majority can adopt a rule in Congress, then a simple majority can change it. Now, the rules we’re talking about have to do with filibusters. Good folk now think of filibusters as a way a minority can prevent the majority from doing bad things. They say this even as this majority IS doing bad things, and planning worse. They forget that filibusters used to be a favorite took of white racists -- who were then Democrats but have since changed their label. They forget that one rule, which Newt Gingrich whipped up in cahoots with Bill Clinton, requires cutting social programs across the board, right now, this week, in order to hold down the federal deficit.

The electoral college, Lord help us, is a rule that pretends to protect the little states against the big ones. We can do better, and we must -- other countries do. But let me find a note of hope in this grim picture. Since the beginning of time, a majority of people have favored the death penalty and the oppression of women. Yet in Europe, the death penalty has been outlawed, and women have made great strides, because cooler heads have come to prevail. Even Turkey has foresworn executions in order to be accepted among more civilized countries. And all this has happened in a few decades. Here, we’ve had a setback, harkening like Islamic extremists, to the barbarity of fundamentalism, but that cannot last. It’s too cruel, too mean, too stupid.