In 1939, the legendary Frank Capra directed the equally legendary Jimmy Stewart in the film classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Both men were giants in the film industry, but also devoted patriots who believed in American exceptionalism and patriotism. In fact, both Capra and Stewart put their careers on hold to enlist in the military during World War II; Capra in the U.S. Signal Corps and Stewart in the Army Air Corps.
Filmed and published before both men committed to fighting the Axis powers, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tells the story of Stewart’s Jefferson Smith, the Scout chief who is called to an empty Senate seat because party bosses believe he could easily be manipulated to vote on legislation that would be beneficial to their interests. After realizing that he is being used, Smith launches an epic filibuster in the Senate and exposes the nefarious scheme hatched by his corrupt opponents. The film has become synonymous with the tradition of filibustering in the Senate and, like David against Goliath, the struggle of one man against a giant – in this case the political machine.
In the modern Senate, filibustering is primarily a procedural instrument, although there are still examples of senators who use Mr. Smithlike, talking filibustering tactics. For example, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a 21-hour marathon speech against Obamacare in 2013. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) called for 15 hours of arms control measures in 2016. For better or worse, the delay mechanism has been used by senators to either slow down or kill off proposals they disagree with. The fact that a senator can exercise this procedural instrument distinguishes the Senate from the House of Representatives and prevents the majority party from exercising uncontrolled power without the influence of the minority and without negotiations with the minority.
Last September, when he spoke of the Democrats’ desire to end the legislative delay process, John Thune (R-SD), Majority Whip of the Senate, quoted Federalist No. 62, in which James Madison articulated how the Senate is designed to act as a check on the “tendency of all individuals and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions and to be seduced by partisan leaders into excessive and perverted resolutions. Senator Thune went on to cite the legislative filibuster as the means by which the Senate carried out this necessary control of the whims of the U.S. House of Representatives, a body that structurally reflects the passion of the masses.
This countermajority feature of the Senate was crucial to our founding fathers. Madison framed the Senate as a “necessary fence” against the “fickleness and passion” of the House of Representatives. In another popular story, George Washington Thomas Jefferson explains that the framers created the Senate as a saucer to cool the hot tea of the House of Representatives’ legislation.
Protecting our Republic by preventing absolute majority rule is precisely why the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), refused to end legislative stalling even when the Republicans had control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. Despite pressure from many in his own party, including President Trump, McConnell remained strong and refused to change the role that the founding fathers envisioned for the United States Senate.
Unfortunately, the Democrats under the leadership of the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), proved that they were more interested in full control of all government levers than in giving all Americans a voice. The Democrats threaten to end legislative filibustering if they gain control of the White House and Senate while retaining a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Should this nightmare scenario occur, any legislation that the Democrats want to pass, as unpopular as it may be with the American people, would be passed by a simple majority.
What would that mean? The Green New Deal would easily pass the House of Representatives, and Democratic senators who fear primaries of the socialist wing of their party would be pressured to vote “yes”. The same goes for far-reaching arms control laws, taxpayer-funded political campaigns, massive tax increases, and any other law that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her “troop” of socialists might dream up.
An end to legislative filibustering would allow the Democrats to “wrap up” the Supreme Court by adding new seats that they can fill with liberal lawyers, and then to fill the Senate with four new Democrats by granting statehood to Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. These measures, coupled with a lowering of the voting age to 16 years, will allow the Democrats to successfully transform the United States of America into a one-party regime that renders senators and representatives from conservative states and districts completely powerless.
These positions are not far from those expressed in a recent article on the New Republic, which argued that the Republican Party must die and called for “the American left to work toward abolishing the Constitution someday–either for a new document or a new democratic order without a written constitution. Not surprisingly, this drive for one-party rule is being driven not only by the media allies of the Left, but also by those in power in the Democratic Party itself, such as Schumer, the vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), to name a few.
This drastic collapse of the United States of America would turn our country into a banana republic. Half of the country would be silent in our representative democracy. They would receive only limited help from a judicial system that would be transformed into nothing more than an extension of the ruling Democratic Party. In this Orwellian version of America, whenever the Democratic takeover of power is completed, we will look back on the day and regret the day the Democrats told Mr. Smith to fuck off Washington.
Michael R. Davis is the president and founder of the Article III Project (A3P). Previously, he was chief advisor in the nomination of former Senate Justice Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), where he served as Chief of Staff during the confirmation process of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Davis also worked for the Supreme Court for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author….