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June 15, 2005
LA Times Points Out Lynching-Apology Hypocrisy

The Los Angeles Times opinion pages runs a commentary by Andres Martinez pointing out the historical hypocrisy of the Senate in their lynching apology Monday. As I wrote yesterday, the Senate and the national news media -- including the LA Times -- studiously avoided more than a passing mention of the filibuster's central role in ensuring that the federal government could not intervene to save lynching's primarily African-American victims:

Astonishingly, Senate Resolution 39 makes no mention of the f-word, which denotes the mechanism that allows a minority of legislators to block votes. The resolution duly notes that at least 4,742 people, mostly African Americans, were lynched in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968; that nearly 200 anti-lynching bills, backed by seven presidents, were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century; that the House of Representatives did pass three strong anti-lynching measures, but that the Senate never did, thus failing its "minimum and most basic of federal responsibilities" to those who were "deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States." As Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who sponsored the resolution, said, the Senate was "uniquely culpable" for Washington's failure to protect U.S. citizens from a type of domestic terrorism often orchestrated by local authorities.

What wasn't said is that the Senate was "uniquely culpable" because it cherished the filibuster a procedural rule that enhances each member's individual power over the Constitution. The Senate's failure to acknowledge the cause of its homicidal negligence robs its apology of much meaning or sincerity. ...

It's hardly shocking that Landrieu wanted to keep the f-word out of the resolution. She was one of those moderates who saved the filibuster from attempts by conservative Republicans to "nuke" it for judicial nominations by allowing some of President Bush's stalled nominees to get a vote. During the Gang of 14 news conference, Landrieu exuberantly proclaimed: "I am so proud we were able to reach an agreement that truly reflects the best traditions of the Senate."

She went on to say that the deal "helps protect these cherished traditions by ensuring that the minority, even a lone individual, will continue to have the right to speak up and be heard." Her fellow sensible centrist, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, said the agreement "helps preserve the unique culture of this institution," a "culture in which legislative goals are reached with patience and perseverance."

It doesn't even mention Robert Byrd's contention that the Gang of 14 had "saved the Republic" by protecting the filibuster. This post-compromise rhetoric paired with this whitewashed apology truly insults our intelligence and perpetuates the historical fallacy of the filibuster as an instrument for Constitutional balance.

Read the whole thing. And if readers are keeping score, I have yet to see an example of the filibuster's use so profound and beneficial to the nation that it would balance out the lives it cost in lynching victims, reported and unreported.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 15, 2005 7:51 AM

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