Ancient Rome shows why the Filibuster is a terrible idea

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” ― Bruce Lee

The end of the Roman Republic shows US politicians’ mindless defense of the filibuster could destroy our democracy.

To explain, the filibuster is a unique tradition of the US Senate which gives any Senator a veto over most legislation. In detail, it takes a vote of 60 Senators to override a filibuster. Hence, it requires a 60 vote super majority for the Senate to pass legislation.

Ironically, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and may not be Constitutional. Yet, many US Senators swear by it. In particular, the Senate’s walking fashion disaster Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) took to the pages of The Washington Post to defend it.

Power-Mad Senators love the Filibuster

Sinema writes: “Everyday Arizonans are focused on questions that matter most in their daily lives. Is my job secure? Can I expand my business? Can we afford college? What about health care? When can I retire? Is my community safe? Meanwhile, much of Washington’s focus is on a Senate rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation.”

I think that statement is imbecilic because the filibuster prevents the Senate from passing an enormous amount of legislation that could affect ordinary people’s lives. Since the Senator presumably understands how the filibuster prevents the Senate from functioning, I conclude Sinema is either an idiot or a liar.

I believe Sinema wants to preserve her own power at the expense of the nation. The filibuster gives individual Senators, such as Sinema, enormous amounts of power, influence, money, and fame.

For instance, President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) holds one-on-one with meetings with Sinema and another Filibuster lover Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). If there were no filibuster, I think Biden would not answer Machin and Sinema’s phone calls.

Why the Filibuster is so Dangerous

The danger from the filibuster is that the US Senate and the entire United States government will be incapable of achieving anything.

This danger is not hypothetical, history shows that disaster results when you give individual legislators filibuster type vetoes. For example, filibuster-type vetoes were one reason for the end of the Roman Republic.

How the Filibuster killed the Roman Republic

In a description of the Republic’s government, author Anthony Everitt writes: “Another remarkable device inhibited overmighty citizens. This was the widespread use of the veto.” See Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician page 14 for an excellent description of the veto-happy Roman government.

The veto made it impossible for the Roman Republic to implement any reform that limited the wealth and power of the upper classes. Instead, the rich got richer and the Roman Senate became more powerful.

The ultimate result was that the Roman people became convinced that violence was the only path to change. To overcome the veto, the Roman people turned to mob violence, assassination, civil war, and military coups.

Eventually, ordinary Romans began backing dictators such as Julius and Augustus Caesar against the Senate. By the late First Century BC, the Senate was irrelevant and all power was in the hands of the first Emperor Augustus Caesar, who had the backing of the army and the people.

Roman politicians such as Cicero mindlessly defended their veto powers to the bitter end. Similar to modern American politicians; such as Sinema, Manchin, Biden, and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Roman politicos thought they had a sacred duty to defend their version of the filibuster.

Cicero believed he was preserving the Roman Republic when in reality he was destroying it. Ultimately, hitmen hired by Augustus murdered Cicero. One reason for Cicero’s murder was to prevent him from opposing Augustus’s legislative program.

 That’s right, Augustus thought murder was the only way to remove obstacles to his legislation. American politics have not gone that far yet. However, a mob attacked the US Capitol and threaten to lynch politicians on 6 January 2021.

How the Filibuster Destroyed Poland

One historic legislative body that had a filibuster was the Polish Senate or Sejm.

Every member of the Sejm had a Liberum veto. The Liberum veto gave any member of the Sejm the ability to kill any piece of legislation. Consequently, the Polish government was weak, small, poor, and incapable of defending the country.

That enabled Poland’s neighbors Russia, Prussia, and Austria to seize enormous amounts of Polish territory. Eventually, Poland became part of the Russian Empire because it had no army to protect itself. One reason why Poland had no army was that foreign enemies; such as Russian Empress Catherine the Great, bribed members of the Sejm to block any effort to modernize the military.

The Sejm abolished the Librium veto in 1791. Two years later, in 1793, Russia and Prussia abolished independent Poland and partitioned the country between them. Poland did not regain its independence until after World War I in 1919.

History shows that filibusters can be fatal to countries. Unfortunately, today’s US Senators are unaware of that history.