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June 13, 2005

Where do Cornyn and Hutchison stand on lynching?

By Jim Dallas

Neither Senator from Texas is one of the 78
cosponsors of the Landrieu-Allen resolution apologizing for the Senate's unwillingness to pass an anti-lynching law in the middle part of the last century. At the time of the vote, at least twelve Senators (not known which) were reportedly opposed to the apology.

So where, exactly, do our Senators stand? If the two senators from Texas couldn't find the moral courage to stand with the overwhelming majority of their peers in casting a symbolic vote against hate seven years to the week after the death of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper County, then why should they deserve anybody's vote?

UPDATE: The 18 late-comers did not include Hutchison or Cornyn. A full list of cosponsors after the jump.

Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Allard, Wayne [CO] - 2/7/2005
Sen Allen, George [VA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 6/13/2005
Sen Bayh, Evan [IN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Biden, Joseph R., Jr. [DE] - 2/7/2005
Sen Bond, Christopher S. [MO] - 6/13/2005
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Brownback, Sam [KS] - 2/7/2005
Sen Bunning, Jim [KY] - 6/13/2005
Sen Burns, Conrad R. [MT] - 6/13/2005
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] - 6/9/2005
Sen Byrd, Robert C. [WV] - 6/7/2005
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 6/8/2005
Sen Carper, Thomas R. [DE] - 6/9/2005
Sen Chafee, Lincoln [RI] - 6/13/2005
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] - 6/9/2005
Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] - 6/7/2005
Sen Coleman, Norm [MN] - 6/7/2005
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] - 2/7/2005
Sen Corzine, Jon S. [NJ] - 2/7/2005
Sen Craig, Larry E. [ID] - 6/7/2005
Sen Dayton, Mark [MN] - 2/7/2005
Sen DeMint, Jim [SC] - 6/8/2005
Sen DeWine, Mike [OH] - 6/13/2005
Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Dole, Elizabeth [NC] - 6/13/2005
Sen Domenici, Pete V. [NM] - 6/8/2005
Sen Dorgan, Byron L. [ND] - 6/9/2005
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 2/7/2005
Sen Ensign, John [NV] - 2/7/2005
Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Frist, William H. [TN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] - 6/9/2005
Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] - 2/7/2005
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 6/13/2005
Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/9/2005
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Jeffords, James M. [VT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] - 2/7/2005
Sen Kennedy, Edward M. [MA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 2/28/2005
Sen Kohl, Herb [WI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/7/2005
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Levin, Carl [MI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR] - 2/17/2005
Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Martinez, Mel [FL] - 6/13/2005
Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 2/7/2005
Sen McConnell, Mitch [KY] - 6/13/2005
Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] - 6/7/2005
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] - 6/7/2005
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] - 2/7/2005
Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE] - 6/9/2005
Sen Obama, Barack [IL] - 2/17/2005
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] - 2/7/2005
Sen Reid, Harry [NV] - 2/7/2005
Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] - 6/13/2005
Sen Rockefeller, John D., IV [WV] - 6/13/2005
Sen Salazar, Ken [CO] - 2/17/2005
Sen Santorum, Rick [PA] - 2/17/2005
Sen Sarbanes, Paul S. [MD] - 2/28/2005
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] - 2/7/2005
Sen Sessions, Jeff [AL] - 6/13/2005
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/7/2005
Sen Specter, Arlen [PA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] - 2/17/2005
Sen Stevens, Ted [AK] - 2/7/2005
Sen Talent, Jim [MO] - 2/7/2005
Sen Thune, John [SD] - 6/13/2005
Sen Vitter, David [LA] - 2/17/2005
Sen Warner, John [VA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 6/13/2005

Posted by Jim Dallas at June 13, 2005 11:35 PM | TrackBack


You appreciate, I hope, that what the Senate is apologizing for is the blockage of any and all civil-rights legislation (of which anti-lynching legislation was the least ambitious starting point) through the repeated use, or threatened use, of the Senate filibuster by southern Democrats? And that historically, blocking civil rights legislation not blocking judicial nominees has been the most frequent and by far the most significant use of the filibuster?

If one's in favor of symbolic gestures, shouldn't the current resolution also condemn the filibuster, through which for more than eight decades from the post-Civil War period through the Civil Rights Act of 1957 a minority of bigots were able to frustrate the pro-civil rights legislative desires of a several presidents (of both parties), substantial bipartisan majorities of the House and Senate, and a majority of Americans?

Posted by: Beldar at June 14, 2005 12:25 AM

Blaming the filibuster for blocking civil rights legislation is like blaming the axe for Lizzie Borden's handiwork.

Posted by: Brian Boyko at June 14, 2005 03:00 AM

Let's also recall that Southern Democrats of that era included such famous politicos as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. Their tradition now resides in the GOP of Trent Lott.

Posted by: Jose at June 14, 2005 07:00 AM

Why is the Senate concerning itself with such useless legislation? Seems to me that its time would be better spent on issues like Social Security, national defense, and health care.

Posted by: Drew at June 14, 2005 10:03 AM

Drew, I think both parties of the Senate want to spotlight some bread and butter in between bitter partisan battles that dropkick approval ratings.

Also, it's no wonder Cornyn has the lowest approval rating in all the Senate.

Posted by: Kevin L. at June 14, 2005 01:11 PM

Axes have legitimate uses, to which they're mostly put. Do you offer this same justification, Mr. Boyko, for assault rifles used to shoot up post offices?

Filibusters have mostly been used by bigots to block civil rights legislation. Filibusters have been not just a tool, but the main tool used by bigots. But for the filibuster, anti-lynching legislation would have passed decades earlier. Most of the biggest civil rights fights prior to 1957 played out not directly over proposed legislation, but over (uniformly unsuccessful) attempts by pro-civil rights forces to limit filibusters through proposed changes to Rule XXII on cloture. Pro-civil rights leaders like Hubert Humphrey made that their focus, rather than legislation itself, because they recognized that filibusters were precisely what prevented passage of the legislation.

The bigots who used or threatened to use the filibuster were not numerous enough on their own to ensure that cloture votes would fail. They had to have allies from outside the South. So they always insisted that they weren't in favor of lynching, but were acting out of devotion to the principles of "full debate" and to the protection of "minority rights." ("Minority" in this instance meaning states controlled by white Southern bigots.) This charade gave political cover to non-Southern "moderates" from both parties who declined to vote for cloture or for changes in Rule XXII, knowing that by doing so they were ensuring the perpetuation of institutionalized racism. Those "moderates" never voted against the civil rights legislation directly. Often, though, their "payoff" for voting against changes to Rule XXII or specific cloture motions were choice committee assignments and log-rolled votes for local pork barrel projects -- bribes from the bigoted white southern Democrats who disproportionately controlled the Senate's major committees. If they or their Senate successors owe an apology now, it's for their support of the right to filibuster.

Thus, if one accepts the premise of symbolic votes at all, then I can see good arguments for why the Senate, as a whole, should apologize. But why the Senate, and not the House? Because the House didn't have filibusters; that's the reason why the House didn't block civil rights legislation, just like it's the reason why the Senate did.

Facile analogies aside, those are the historic facts. Do they justify a symobolic condemnation of the Senate filibuster along with condemnation of the bigots who used it and the enablers who permitted it?

Posted by: Beldar at June 14, 2005 03:45 PM

Blaming filibusters-- filibusters alone, that is-- for the failure of the Senate to pass civil rights legislation is silly. Comparing the Dixiecrat filibusters of decades ago to the ones of today while ignoring the political issues and the dynamics of the Senate makeup, well that's just reckless. Facile analogies, indeed.

Recall that a filibuster requires a very public vote by each Senator on a very high profile measure. Recall also that it can be ended by a supermajority. Now compare that to other obstructionist techniques whereby a single Senator can silently put a hold on a nomination or prevent legislation from ever reaching committee. It takes a lot more guts to support a filibuster than to use cowardly, underhanded rules. (Cough, Jesse Helms, cough.) Just ask any GOP Senator who dares to vote on principle instead of party line.

The Senate SHOULD apologize for blocking civil rights, whether or not filibusters were used. Let's that this august body doesn't need to apologize again 50 years from now for NOT using the Senate rules and traditions to protect our precious American freedoms and values.

Posted by: Jose at June 14, 2005 08:02 PM

Jose, I don't blame "filibusters alone." Re-read my previous post, especially its concluding paragraph. I actually blame more than just the bigots who participated in the filibusters and threats of them; I also blame the "enablers" whom the filibusterers "bought off," which included non-southern Senators of both parties.

But I'm interested to find that the Los Angeles Times that bastion of conservatism and Republicanism published a pretty good op-ed today making some of the same points that I did:

Not acknowledging that the filibuster was at issue in the lynching context, not even to address the filibuster's tarnished history, amounts to intellectual cowardice.

I don't agree with the writer that it's "obscene" for the Senate to have named its office building after the late Richard Russell (D-GA), even though for many years, he was the de facto leader of southern Senate Democrats. Russell was LBJ's mentor in the Senate, and as Robert Caro's fabulous LBJ biography Master of the Senate makes clear, Russell was a great senator and a great American in many respects other than his civil rights record, and even there was far from the most vile in his attitudes. But yes, his participation in blocking civil rights legislation tarnishes his record as indeed LBJ's participation as a Congressman and a Senator pre-1957 tarnishes his (despite his later becoming the preeminently successful civil rights crusader of the Twentieth Century). There are both things to applaud and things to lament (and condemn, and apologize for) in America's civil rights history, and frequently one finds all those things in the record of single individuals. (Caro tells how Hubert Humphrey, for example, was piloried for "selling out" on civil rights when he supported LBJ's cynical but effective plan to gut most of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 because Humphrey, like LBJ, realized that getting any civil rights bill past the filibustering southern Democrats was "better than nothing.")

But you simply can't reflect meaningfully about America's civil rights record without recognizing the absolutely central role that the filibuster has played in it always and inevitably as the key anti-civil rights mechanism. One can make an intellectually honest defense of it only if one is willing to admit and embrace the facts that it is profoundly anti-(small-d)-democratic, and that it historically has been used for vile purposes (regardless of how it's purportedly being used now). The southern Democrats who successfully filibustered civil rights legislation for decades 82 years! also insisted that they were "protecting precious American freedoms and values." But objectively, they were frustrating representative majority democracy then, and the verdict of history is that they were deluding themselves and were simply wrong in how they characterized the "freedoms and values" they were protecting against "erosion" by the legislative majority.

Judicial filibusters now are absolutely as anti-democratic as were anti-civil rights filibusters then that's not subject to honest dispute. Perhaps the verdict of history will be kinder in assessing the "freedoms and values" that judicial filibusters are being used to "protect" today. But again, be honest, and admit that (a) the tool being used is one that has primarily been used in the past for "causes" that history has ultimately condemned, and (b) the current legislative majority already disagrees with your evaluation of your "cause," just as then then-majorities who were frustrated with civil rights filibusters disapproved of the anti-civil rights "cause."

Posted by: Beldar at June 15, 2005 09:13 AM

Funny word, "anti-democratic". But isn't that what the Senate was intended to be, in a GOOD way? By design and by tradition, it is a deliberative body, meant to curb the whims and excesses of an exuberant public. Yes, by golly, on occasion they do slow things down a bit. Bravo!

One thing that really chaps me in the current furor over judicial filibusters is the whole constitutional issue. There's a lot more rationale for the constitutionality of the Senate's actions than there is for the behavior of President Bush. Constitution says here that each house can make its own rules, and so the Senate allows extended debate. The Constitution does NOT say that the Senate must vote on every nominee, or even that a simple majority approval is sufficient for confirmation. But the Constitution does require the President to obtain "the advice and consent of the Senate", and the honest truth is that he treats them more as lapdogs than as constitutional partners.

Your original post asked whether we should condemn the filibuster. The answer is "no". There is nothing inherently evil about it, whereas the mere threat of filibuster has the potential for good. You seem awfully intent on making the point that a (slim) majority didn't like them (a) then and (b) now. Agreed. Look, there's no argument that the filibuster has been used in the past for ill purposes. However, to extrapolate from past sins in lieu of analyzing the present usage is unnecessary and unwise. That, too, is not subject to honest debate.

Posted by: Jose at June 15, 2005 12:26 PM
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