|April 26, 2005||EDITORIAL ARCHIVES|
Nuking The Filibuster: How the GOP Wants to Put Duct Tape Around Mr. Smith
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
If the Democrats want the Republicans to quickly bury the idea of ending the filibuster, they should just rent two hours of television time and show "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" on every television station in America.
It was made more than 60 years ago (in 1939), but Frank Capra's gloriously sentimental and patriotic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" puts the Bushevik notion of ending the filibuster to shame.
In this uplifting ode to democracy, Jimmy Stewart plays a wide-eyed Jefferson Smith taking on the corrupt political boss of a western state (Montana) and a senator (Claude Rains) who has sold his soul to the devil in order to attain power. Stewart is considered a naïve rube, a hayseed leader of a boy scout movement in his state, who is appointed senator to fill out the term of a deceased partner in crime to Senator Paine (Rains). Stewart is reluctantly "approved" by the media mogul and industrial baron who controls the state, Jim Taylor.
The expectation is that Jefferson Smith will just sit dumfounded by his good luck and keep his mouth shut as Paine ushers a bill through the Senate that will make his mentor and himself rich through graft.
But, unlike modern times, the defilers of democracy misjudged Jefferson Smith's devotion to the principles of the American Constitution and his sense of fairness and justice. Once a formerly cynical secretary (Jean Arthur) alerts Stewart to the fact that he is being played for a sap and reveals the illegal profiteering plans of Paine and Taylor, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is off to the races -- or to a filibuster. Within the film, one radio commentator describes the filibuster as the ultimate tribute to democracy: one man (or woman) can bring the United States Senate to a stand still in order to stand up for his (or her) beliefs.
Unlike the phony, Disney-like notions of democracy that Bush spouts while trying to turn our government into a Politburo, Jefferson Smith filibusters for decency, integrity, equality and justice. The senator and corrupt political/media machine that he challenges are the antithesis of what our founding fathers envisioned for this nation. (It is amazing to note how Taylor, the corporate baron of Montana, also controls the media and prevents Jefferson Smith's charges against the Taylor machine from being printed in papers or aired on the radio in the state. It's just like the NATIONAL media today being in bed with the Bush administration.)
And make no mistake about it. The Republican effort to end the filibuster on the basis that Bush should have his hack judges confirmed is not what this battle is really about. It is about the GOP further dismantling democracy by ensuring that they can pass almost any legislation through the Senate without the Democrats being able to stand up for democracy in opposition to psychotic extremists. (Although Bush's incompetent judicial nominations are a fright fest in and of themselves. One of them, "Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a 'war' against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots.")
Fortunately, by a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejects easing Senate rules to prohibit filibusters, according to a Washington Post poll. Not that this will necessarily deter the Busheviks. They believe in seizing power, not listening to the citizens of America.
The Republicans only came to power as a one-party government by scaring and fooling the most people, not because they represent the majority of America. We refuse to believe the people of this nation have sunk to the level of Tom DeLay, James Dobson, or Rick Santorum. They are the hucksters Jefferson Smith filibustered against in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Only now these corrupt moralists have wrapped themselves in a mantle of a fundamentalist and coercive interpretation of the Bible that makes the head of the Spanish Inquisition appear like a moderate.
Most Americans don't agree with the radical Biblical Taliban positions of the Busheviks, but the Republicans put on a better show in 2004 -- you might have called it "Fear Factor" -- and kept their crimes from being exposed by whitewashing every one of them -- and those were only the ones that came out in public. They launch phony investigations of themselves and then announce "all clear." It would have been like Al Capone being allowed to appoint his own hand-picked "committee" to investigate if he had any connections to the mob. That's why they are in power.
It only took one good man -- with the coaching of one good woman -- to bring down such charlatans in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," one wide-eyed true believer in the promise and glory of the American dream.
It's time that every American who believes in the true glory of our revolutionary form of government start to filibuster the snake oil salesmen, liars, fakers, and self-enriching Republicans who believe themselves above the law. Some of them are criminal; some of them are psychotic. They need to be in jail or need mental health services. They should not have a seat in government.
Jefferson Smith, in Capra's film, goes to the Lincoln monument for inspiration. He doesn't think of how Lincoln's words would sound in a political speech. He doesn't try them out in a focus group.
Jefferson Smith goes to the Lincoln Monument because he BELIEVES in the words of Lincoln, of government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Smith's father had told him that social and political causes that appear as if they are losing ones are the ones most worth fighting.
Surely, the future of democracy is just such a cause.
Every Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Smith should go to Washington and uproot the cancer upon democracy that the Busheviks have brought into the White House, Congress and the Courts.
We should filibuster our nation until it is once again loosened from the grips of those who would hijack it for their own selfish and demented purposes.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
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