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Horowitz: Gorsuch Filibuster - A Really Stupid and Futile Gesture

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


In the movie Animal House when Dean Wormer was finally able to expel all the Deltas, Eric ‘Otter’ Stratton played by Tim Matheson exclaimed, “Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!”

That exactly describes the Democratic Senators bound to fail filibuster of Trump Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch last week.  As was a foregone conclusion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-KY) exercised the so-called nuclear option invalidating filibusters for Supreme Court nominees and Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54 to 45 vote.

While the Democrats gesture was “really futile and stupid,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who orchestrated the filibuster, is anything but. So what was this all about?

Democratic Senators will tell you that whether or not they filibustered this time, Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues would have just exercised the nuclear option for the next Trump nominee. This is probably the case.

But, in attempting to prevent an up and down vote for Gorsuch, who was unanimously deemed qualified by the American Bar Association and who performed nearly flawlessly when testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Democrats looked unreasonable and obstructionist.  Gorsuch is qualified, impressive, composed and no more conservative than Antonin Scalia, the Justice he is replacing. In other words, he will not change the current balance on the Court.

Justifiably outraged by the Republicans’ decision to not even give Merrick Garland, an equally qualified Judge nominated last year by President Obama even a Committee hearing, Schumer and company argued that "turnabout is fair play.” But most importantly, the activist Democratic base determined to oppose all things Trump and Republican, communicated loudly that anything short of an all-out effort to block Gorsuch was unacceptable and a threshold number of Democratic Senators cravenly went along.

This failed filibuster is mainly a result of partisan polarization. When both at the grassroots roots level and among party and elected officials, the other side is viewed as the ‘enemy’ rather than the opponent and is constantly demonized, reaching common ground through principled compromise—so essential  to solve our nation’s big challenges—remains elusive.

The bases of both parties too often reward elected officials who engage in partisan warfare, rather than devote time to constructive governance.

The result is the dysfunction we see in Washington.

It is time for elected leaders in both parties to stop this race to the bottom and put country first.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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