With a new epilogue on filibuster battles under the Biden administration
THE CASE FOR ENDING THE FILIBUSTER
"A truly excellent book… blistering and persuasive.” —Ezra Klein, New York Times
An insider’s account of how politicians representing a radical white minority of Americans have used “the world’s greatest deliberative body” to hijack our democracy.
Our democracy is under assault from homegrown authoritarians, with most observers blaming Donald Trump and the Republican Party that submitted to him. Yet as Adam Jentleson shows, the problem not only goes back to the nineteenth century, but is less about the presidency than it is about our nation’s most venerated institution: the United States Senate. A revelatory history of minority rule in America as expressed through the Senate filibuster, Kill Switch shows that white conservatives have long relied on the filibuster—which is not featured in the Constitution, and which, as Jentleson demonstrates, the Framers would have opposed—to shut down attempts to create a multiracial democracy. Featuring a new epilogue on filibuster battles under the Biden administration, Kill Switch will remain an essential warning about the costs of empowering this nation’s right-wing minority.
• “Jentleson understands the inner workings of the institution, down to the most granular details, showing precisely how arcane procedural rules can be leveraged to dramatic effect.” —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
• “Careful and thorough and exacting.” —Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books
• “[An] excellent, surprising new book.” —Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
Jentleson, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, debuts with an engrossing primer on modern-day congressional gridlock. Frustrated by Republicans who had been using the filibuster at an unprecedented rate to obstruct President Obama's Cabinet-level and judicial nominees, Reid invoked the so-called "nuclear option" in 2013 and changed Senate rules so that only a simple majority, rather than a three-fifths supermajority, was necessary to end debate on presidential nominees. (Legislation still requires a supermajority.) Citing Merrick Garland's thwarted Supreme Court nomination and a gun control bill that failed to pass despite the support of 55 senators and 90% of the public, Jentleson argues that Senate rules empower "a minority of predominantly white conservatives to override our democratic system." His suggestions for reform include doing away with supermajority requirements except where they're mandated by the Constitution, fixing filibuster rules to revive "real debate," and democratizing how Senate majority leaders are chosen. Jentleson skillfully clarifies many arcane legislative procedures and brings a wide range of historical episodes to vivid life. Readers will be galvanized to make the issue of Senate reform a priority.
Bright author with thoughtful understanding, but he is masquerading as intellectually honest. Unfortunately, as is so often the case these days, he cleverly posits as facts what are most assuredly opinions. Thesis is right, but politics are wrong. Shame. Waste of a good chance.
An argument in defense of democracy!
Fantastic. So glad I made time to read this. I finally feel some clarity on the topic after years of confusion.