Don’t Call It Filibuster

Probably most people don’t know what a filibuster is, other than it’s something bad that elected representatives do to block up or down votes on proposed bills or nominees. Mitch McConnell, the current Republican majority leader, used the filibuster in the Senate to block just about everything President Obama wanted to do. It did not matter what the issue was. He just wanted Obama to fail. Little wonder, then, that many people equate the filibuster with unreasonable obstruction.

When Trump becomes president, the Democrats could filibuster as payback. No one would be entitled to say the Republicans didn’t have it coming to them. But that would be a mistake in both substance and semantics.

Take substance first. The Democratic position should never be to just want Trump to fail. There is no reason to emulate Republican mean-spirited behavior. Instead, the Democratic position should be to want only reasonable bills to pass and qualified, responsible people to serve. That may and probably will mean not agreeing to bills Trump advances or confirming people he nominates. These should be opposed as a matter of policy, not because it is good that Trump fail. Indeed, advocating for the policies they were elected to advance is what good representatives do. And there is no need to apologize for using every available tactic to accomplish that purpose, even if it means blocking up or down votes on bills or nominees.

Now for semantics. “Filibuster” is a word that has a bad connotation. Call something murder and it’s bad. Call the same act self-defense and it’s not bad. Words matter, so Democrats should avoid the word “filibuster,” because of its negative connotation. Instead, Democrats should frame their opposition in a positive way. Never threaten to filibuster. Instead, Democrats should say they are merely playing by the rules and advocating the policies they were elected to advance. Just doing their job, nothing more, nothing less. Sounds better that way, right?