Filibuster Changes Would Bring The Public Back In

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
We all want to see the Senate start working again, and be more democratic. We have all lived through the breakdown of the Senate and the damage this has done to our democracy and the public’s faith in government because of the abuse of the current rules. There is a vote likely tomorrow and we want to see real changes. There is a way to fix the problem and restore public interest in government at the same time: make them talk!
On the first “day” of a Senate session the rules can be changed. The Senate met January 5 but did not adjourn the session, which means that the first “day” continues. The Senate reconvenes tomorrow. There is likely to be a vote on rules reform tomorrow. And if the vote is not tomorrow, the Senate can go into recess instead of adjourning for the day, and continue in the “first day.”
There are rumors in every direction about what they might do about the dysfunction of the Senate. Rumors aside, one month ago every Democrat in the Senate signed a letter in support of changing the rules to require Senators to actually talk. This is the best outcome and there is no reason at all not to do this. If another “compromise” against democracy occurs, the public will be further demoralized. The country does not need another blow against trust in government.
Restore Public Interest
The public thinks this is how it is done. The movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” has cemented this in the minds of everyone. Unfortunately it isn’t how it has been done, and the result is that the public does not even know that the Senate is broken. They only know that “government” doesn’t work for them, and the change they need just does not happen.
If the Senate required Senators to actually stand up and talk, in the conventional understanding of what a filibuster is, it would restore public interest. It would be dramatic. People would notice. It is a show, with a purpose. When Senators stand up and talk and don’t stop the public wants to know why and they want to get involved. People would want to weigh in. This is the right way to fix the Senate. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.
Please visit Fix The Senate Now for more information. And CALL YOUR SENATORS to tell them you support reforming the filibuster!
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Revive The Fairness Doctrine

Let’s start a discussion about reviving the Fairness Doctrine to re-introduce the commons and the idea that we tell the corporations what to do!
A few years ago, in a popular post about the Fairness Doctrine, I wrote,

This “Fairness Doctrine” requirement was intended to protect the public from the possibility of moneyed interests buying up all of the information sources, leaving the public hearing only their viewpoint.

I think that this may be an opportunity – if done right – to reintroduce the public to the idea of the commons: that the public owns the resources of the country, and the laws, and has the power to tell corporations what to do instead of the other way around. If we can project that into the discussion, it leads straight to a discussion of the tight concentration of ownership of the media by a few corporations. What better issues than something called “Fairness” and that so clearly can be demonstrated. There just are no voices of labor and other non- corporate opinions on the airwaves. The public is ready to hear that.
The demise of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for this media consolidation, because issues around media consolidation were no longer discussed in the media. And that’s the problem now, as well, because it will be very difficult to get a good, honest, all-sides discussion of the commons and the Fairness Doctrine and media consolidation started — because of media consolidation and lack of a Fairness Doctrine.
So do we let the corporations just win this? Reagan unilaterally scrapped public control of the airwaves, vetoed it when Congress voted to bring it back, and then the Republicans filibustered the majority in following years every time the Congress tried again. Does that mean the Congress should stop trying and we should all just let the matter drop, and leave the public thinking that corporations have the right to control the airwaves?
Or does renewing the fight revive public discussion and understanding of these issues, leading to increased understanding of the need for Net Neutrality so big corporations can’t just block the public from even seeing union and progressive websites?
So I think reviving this fight is strategic, preparing the public for upcoming fights on all issues of public vs corporate control of public resources and decision-making.
In 96 I wrote,

Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would open up America’s “marketplace of ideas.” It would help to restore civility to our public discourse. It would help restore our democracy.

I say it is time to restore the Fairness doctrine.