Something Old, Something New. Something Right, Something Wrong
While I was watching Sen. Ted Cruz filibuster on television, in his attempt to defund Obamacare, which could bring about a government shutdown, C-Span was running filibuster facts across the bottom of the screen. One of these scrolls was showing the records for the longest filibusters and I noticed something funny. Two of the longest filibusters were offered by senators from Wisconsin. Not being a Wisconsinite by birth but by both social and political acclimation over the last decade of my life I think I can offer a perspective on the modern debate by looking at some history.
The 5th longest filibuster, unless Sen. Cruz breaks the record, was done by Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, a Democrat, “who spoke for 16 hours and 12 minutes to stall debate on an increase of the public debt ceiling in 1981.” He was concerned about the amount of debt the nation was taking on, and made his stand there. It was a stand against President Reagan and his spending military spendingÂ policies. It was a filibuster going no where, but it was made on principle. It is amusing now to see a Democrat who was worried about the debt ceiling.
The 4th longest filibuster belongs to Sen. Robert La Follette, a Republican from Wisconsin, who “spoke for 18 hours and 23 minutes to stall debate in 1908.” Sen. La Follette, who has a long and storied political history in Wisconsin, was filibustering a law that would allow the US Treasury to loan cash poor banks money to keep them afloat. His idea was was let them go bust, the US government has no reason to get involved in their business. I think many conservatives today would take a similar attitude.
The only problem that modern conservatives may have with this is that at the time “Fighting Bob” ,as he came to be known, was considered a political progressive and a liberal, even though he was a Republican. Things were much different back then, and many do not understand this. Sen. La Follette was the only senator to not grant unanimous consent for then President Woodrow Wilson to enter the United States into World War I. For this, he was labeled by many as a traitor, and was even presented with a rope to hang himself as such.
My Grandfather, on my mother’s side, her father, fought in WWI. I have a picture of him in his dough boy uniform before he went “over there” and a memory of a picture he had on his living room wall of some sort of castle type German position he was part of overtaking. Only God knows what horrors he saw in that war, trench warfare, killing people close up face to face, chemical weapons, but he survived and came home to his little farm in North Carolina. Then he became a stanch, and vocal Republican.
My 83 year old mother tells the story like this. Her father opposed Franklin Roosevelt, he hated the new deal. He did not agree with going into WWII. He didn’t think it was a good idea to enter the Korean War. While he was not a hippy, he did not agree our going into the Vietnam War for political reasons. On a more important modern issue, he did not believe individuals should be taxed on their income. Government should collect their money via tariffs and excise taxes.
My grand father was a not a highly educated man by today’s standards, but he had a few books he held dear. He had some old books about the history of America, and he had papers stuck in them that he collected over the years. He could quote the words of the Founding Fathers directly by name from those books. The other book he had was the Bible, he and my grandmother shared that as their religious faith. He understood there was a time for each, and a time when one should be left alone. That was a lesson I learned that from him, and my mother drove that point home to me.
I really want to drive home the point to you that my Grandfather took a very principled political position, that was probably the wrong one to take in some instances, but he held to what he believed. You have to remember, this was the South then, and was run by Democrats, pro segregationist Dixiecrats. My mother tells me of how her father was the only one to say out loud in public he was a Republican. I have a newspaper article from back in the 1970s of how he worked the polls for over 50 years to try and keep the Democrats honest. Mother will tell you how back in the 1950s everybody in her district voted Democrat, and only maybe 6 people had the guts to show up and cast ballots for Republicans because they would call you a n***** lover if you did. That took courage, real political courage.
This is where I want to return to the Sen. Cruz filibuster trying to defund Obamacare. People who support him are no different than those Dixiecrats who called my grandfather a n***** lover when you attack fellow Republicans like me for saying this is not the way. You are ignorant. When I became involved in the Tea Party movement in 2009, none of you, literally to a person, had no clue how the Constitution works, or how it dictates the federal government works. You wave flags in the air, yell things, but you do not have a fundamental understanding of just what our Founding Father’s wrote those so many years ago or have any respect for the process. And I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but Jesus did not sign the Declaration of Independence either.
The Founders did not give us the choice to pick and choose what we like and don’t like from the Constitution and the process it says we must follow. I was disgusted when Utah’s Senator Mike Lee, in a weak defense of Sen. Cruz position, took to the Senate floor and ripped apart the constitutional separation of powers that gives the Supreme Court it’s oversight of the other branches. Calling the Supreme Court justices “lawyers in black robes” he played the whole Tea Party as a bunch of idiots. That is an insult to the Constitution. I might disagree with their rulings, but we have a political process for that. That is what America is about, not these guys playing on people’s emotions to raise themselves money.
Standing on principle is not about doing something that you personally will pay no political price for but could cost your party dearly just for your own personal gain, and grandstanding to get your name in news so you can raise more money. It’s about standing up for something that you believe in. Sen. Cruz is not standing on any principle, and if you think he is, you are a sucker.