I'm sure Gail Collins, wringing her hands in the New York Times, doesn't think she's the first ever to complain about how the way the federal government does things isn't always or even ever based on majority rule, but I'll admit this is the first time I've seen the complaint cast as so:
There are 100 members of the Senate. But as Brown is currently reminding us, because of the filibuster rule, it takes only 41 to stop any bill from passing.
U.S. population: 307,006,550.
Population for the 20 least-populated states: 31,434,822.
That means that in the Senate, all it takes to stop legislation is one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the country.
People, think about what we went through to elect a new president -- a year and a half of campaigning, three dozen debates, $1.6 billion in donations. Then the voters sent a clear, unmistakable message. Which can be totally ignored because of a parliamentary rule that allows the representatives of slightly more than 10 percent of the population to call the shots.
Why isn't 90 percent of the country marching on the Capitol with teapots and funny hats, waving signs about the filibuster?
Ignore for the time being the tired old "you must not really mean what you say because otherwise you'd agree with me" trope at the end there, and even ignore the implication that currently "one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the country" are standing in the way of anything.
Ignore even that without the filibuster rule one guy plus 50 Senators from the 25 least populous states could block something.
Ok, I know, what's left? Well, I guess just the observation, which after the last ten years or so should be as tired as the shouldn't-the-majority-get-its-way complaint, that lots of things about the way the federal government is structured and run are meant to make it harder for the majority to do things. It's not a bug, it's a feature.
How about the context? Collins is writing about the Massachusetts special election, and Scott Brown's mantra that he will be the "41st Senator" and will therefore derail health care reform. Collins must be aware that 90% of the country is not exactly banging the drums for the health care reform the administration and Congress have come up with. At this point, scuttling the whole thing would reflect the "majority will" a lot better than passing it.
So is that bit about the election of Obama the real point? "The voters sent a clear, unmistakable message," which is in jeopardy of being "totally ignored" if Brown is elected in Massachusetts. Again, it can't be that she means a majority of Americans want the House and Senate to send health care reform to the President, or even everybody who voted for President Obama.
Does this just boil down to "the side I was on won the election in November, 2008, so everything else I want to happen for the four years after that should happen?" I hope that's not a new rule. Obama voters who are cool to the health care reform basting in Congress right now would probably have a say, and it's certainly not a rule I could imagine Gail Collins getting behind during the Bush years.