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March 8, 1917: Senate Introduces Cloture

Woodrow Wilson was no fan of Senate filibusters:

The Democrats controlled the Senate from 1913-1919 and Wilson hated the way that Republicans could bottle up his proposed legislation through the filibuster.  To mollify him, the Senate Democrats passed a rule change one hundred years ago that allowed the termination of debate on a two-thirds vote to invoke cloture.  Even after cloture each Senator could speak for an additional hour on the matter under consideration before a vote was taken.  Cloture existed more in theory than in practice.  Over the next 46 years the Senate would vote for cloture only five times.  There are several reasons why this was the case.

Filibusters added a touch of drama and comedy to otherwise dry proceedings.  The public generally enjoyed them as did more than a few Senators.  Many Senators prided themselves upon belonging to what they called the greatest deliberative body, and thought that the filibuster played an essential role in what made the Senate the Senate.  Southern Democrats, relying on the filibuster to stop civil rights legislation, were fervent supporters of the filibuster.  Many Senators realized that shifting political fortunes could turn a majority into a minority over night, and that the filibuster was the strongest tool of a minority.  Continue Reading

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Fortnight For Freedom: Cynical About Cynicism

 

 

 

fortnight for freedom 2016

 

 

 

My favorite scene from Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  It is easy to give way to weary cynicism when one contemplates all the evil in the world.  However, history is replete with examples of men and women who fought the good fight and won.  Even those who fought and were defeated ennobled all of us by their stand.  Let us ever be cynical about cynicism and let us ever be ready to pick up the gauntlet, no matter the odds, so that, in the ringing phrase of Lincoln, truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land.

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Fortnight For Freedom: Revolution, Independence and Schoolhouse Rock

Fortnight For Freedom 2014

 

Something for the weekend.  I loved these schoolhouse rock videos when they were first broadcast back in the Seventies right before the bicentennial.  Among a fair number of kids I knew they sparked an interest in history.  Of the videos, I believe No More Kings has the catchiest tune.  For a cartoon, The Shot Heard Round the World does a fairly good job of conveying information about the Revolution in a very short span of time:  it manages to include the opening battles of the war, Washington as the central figure of the war, the role of the militia, the endurance of the Continentals, the battle of Trenton, Valley Forge, the frequent defeats of the Americans, the importance of diplomacy and foreign intervention, and the decisive victory at Yorktown.  Fireworks is a nice opening view of the Declaration for kids.  If readers have kids, or if, like me, part of them has never really grown up, watching these cartoons can be a good way to get into the Fourth of July spirit! Continue Reading