Pluralistic: 22 May 2021

Today's links

A grazing rhinoceros containing an elephant containing a Democratic Party donkey logo.

How the filibuster dies (permalink)

I am, frankly, afraid of what's going to happen in the 2022 midterm elections. If the GOP block the Dems from passing any legislation – even the Jan 6 Commission bill! – then it's going to be very hard to mobilize millions of habitual non-voters to show up for the midterms.

And at least one of those bills – HR1, the "For the People Act" – has to pass soon if we're going to head off possibly irreversible voter suppression that will require Democrats to win even-larger supermajorities to win office.

The 2020 elections – and the shambles in Arizona – highlighted just how much of US national politics is controlled by the states.

If you think that the GOP Congressional caucus is unhinged, you don't wanna see what's going on in the state parties:

With a razor-thin hold on the Senate, the Dems need bold action and unity to pass HR1. But establishment Dems like Manchin and Sinema act like their path to re-election requires them to sabotage the Dems on core issues like the $15 minimum wage.

Manchin's commitment to keeping the filibuster makes him into a de facto agent of the GOP, inasmuch as this means that he can single-handedly prevent the Dems from materially improving the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

Manchin has publicly pledged to destroy the Dems' midterm chances – and forseeable future – by defending the filibuster. This utterly disheartens me. With the US is on the cusp of either charting a new path, or collapsing into autocracy, this is no time for decorum.

But this morning, I read a post by Ryan Grim that gave me hope. Grim starts from the undeniable observation that when a thing doesn't happen immediately, it's easy to think it'll never happen. But history tells us that things do, indeed, happen.

He cites Adam Jentleson's KILL SWITCH, a 2021 history of the Senate and its rules, including the filibuster, as a means of defending the country's premier undemocratic, anti-majoritarian institution.

The cover of Adam Jentleson's KILL SWITCH from WW Norton.

Jentleson lays out the path to change as a three act structure. In Act I, the filibuster moves from an obscure issue to something that Dems and the Dem Senate caucus are talking about, with all-round recognition that the filibuster is broken.

That's already happened: even Manchin has supported reinstating the "talking filibuster" (the Mr-Smith-Goes-to-Washington version).

Next is Act II, in which the GOP illustrates that merely reforming the filibuster will do no good, because they are so intransigent that there is no place for comity in the chamber.

The GOP's certainly doing everything it can to hasten Act II along.

I mean, McConnell publicly announced his intention to operate in bad faith to kill the Dems' agenda – the same threat that Obama failed to take seriously in 2009 – and he's backed up his words with deeds.

The GOP's indefensible reversal on the Jan 6 Commission is gift-wrapped proof that they cannot be negotiated with. If the GOP is blocking an investigation into a lynch-mob that came within a whisker of murdering Mike Pence, what won't they block?

If Senate Republicans filibuster the Jan 6 Commission bill, they'll make the case for killing the filibuster more clearly than any Democrat could. Manchin is on record as saying "I’m still praying we’ve still got 10 good solid patriots" among the GOP Senators.

This is Manchin signalling that he might bend on the filibuster, if the GOP force him to.

Grim: "If he’s forced to for the good of the country, because there aren’t enough good solid patriots willing to put that country first, well…The filibuster is not a suicide pact."

Grim thinks that this could happen as early as next week, when the Senate votes on whether to proceed with the Jan 6 Commission. If that happens, we'll move on to Act III.

Act III is the fight over what replaces the filibuster – what the new rules will be. This is the GOP's last chance to save the filibuster, if ten GOP Senators will vote in favor of the commission, end the crisis, and take filibuster reform off the table.

That's what usually happens when the Senate gets to this point. It might happen again. But even if the GOP saves the filibuster this time, the crisis itself will have given Manchin the political cover – and personal experience – to consider killing the filibuster next time.

"If the option is a global financial crisis or a vote to reform the filibuster in order to raise the debt ceiling, the choice even for Manchin is an obvious one: ditch the filibuster. That would be the final act of the play. "

Killing the filibuster is key to giving us HR1, the PRO Act, health care reform and a $15 minimum wage. And once Dems start making laws, the GOP obstruction plan becomes counterproductive: simply shouting no to everything means GOP Senators deny themselves any say.

Grim: "Ending the filibuster is far more likely to bring on bipartisanship than keeping it."

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Linux virus fixes your computer

#15yrsago HDMI, the Manchurian DRM – a Broadcast Flag dormant until 2010

#15yrsago U. Florida cops ask fiction writer for fingerprints, DNA

#10yrsago Byron Sonne: Canadian security geek jailed for taunting G20 security theatre

#10yrsago Vindictive game company invites employees to pan reviewer’s novel after bad review

#10yrsago GOP legislative aide works on punitive voter ID bill, boasts of illegally voting in another district

#5yrsago Sex Criminals: Robin Hood bank robbers who can stop time when they orgasm

#5yrsago JJ Abrams urges Paramount to drop its lawsuit over fan Star Trek movie

#5yrsago NRA endorses Trump

#1yrago Mum uses GDPR to force Gran to take down pics

#1yrago Copyright bots are slaughtering classical musicians' performances

#1yrago How spy agencies targeted Snowden journalists

#1yrago Monopolies killed corporate R&D

#1yrago Spotify's trying to kill podcasting

#1yrago Black Americans' covid mortality is 2.5X white mortality

#1yrago On Madame Leota's side-table

#1yrago Private equity's healthcare playbook is terrifying

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (, Fipi Lele.

Currently writing:

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Friday's progress: 254 words (1854 words total).

  • A short story about consumer data co-ops. PLANNING

  • A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING

  • A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Medium (no ads, paywalled):

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla