Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Last Days of the Republic, Filibuster Edition

November 21st, 2013 by Patrick Henry

Roman Senate


So Senator Reid and the Democratic majority in the Senate has decided to use a sketchy political maneuver to end the 60-vote tradition for confirming judges.  The purpose is to pack the DC Circuit, which reviews and constrains executive branch action, and to distract from Obamacare.  Taken in itself, it isn’t that weighty.  The filibuster is just a political custom, after all, and not the most fundamental one.

The last days of the Roman Republic were also marked by an escalating series of  abuses of political traditions.  The censor used his old-timey power to perform sacrifices and suspend public business while he determined if the omens were right as a tool to block votes that were going to go against his faction.  Tribunes used their tribunate veto, which had before only been used to block the Senate, to veto other tribunes activities in the assembly of the people.  Men started to seek office for the criminal immunity it allowed.  Politically-motivated prosecutions became common.  Offices were extended beyond their normal term of years.  Constitutional reforms were proposed and even enacted because they helped the agenda of some party boss, only to be overturned when his power faded.

All this was bad enough.  Eventually other Roman customs went by the wayside too.  Faction leaders had wars declared to replenish their purse and burnish their popularity.  Sulla and Marius marched on Rome.  Caesar crossed the Rubicon.


The Roman Republic fell.  It took about a century.

In our day the imperial presidency has expanded its prerogatives continuously since FDR.  Both Bush and Obama have pushed the bounds of Presidential powers abroad.  The President’s domestic powers have also increased.  The current President’s has announced legislative decrees in his own signature legislation.

Some later President will announce them in legislation he didn’t enact.

Significant use of the courts to push social change against the popular will started in the 1950s.  That led to the politicization of the courts.  Justices started being nominated specifically because of their ideological views.  In the 1980s, a new wrinkle was introduced–Bork was borked–the Senate refused to confirm his nomination on ideological grounds.   Naturally enough.  The inevitable result of nominating partisan justices was partisan refusals to confirm justices.  The process spread to the appellate courts during the first Bush and Clinton administrations.  Under the second Bush, his political opponents escalated the scale on which they refused to confirm judges and initiated the use of the filibuster for judges for the first time–they were able to extract increased concessions as a result.  Under Obama, the Republicans have reciprocated.  Now the Democrats in the Senate have taken the next logical step–ending the filibuster for judges.  Next will be outright court packing schemes (transgressing the taboo that was established under the second Roosevelt) or else judicial impeachments.  The impeachments won’t be blatantly and purely political at first.  They will just be . . . sketchy.  On the edge of what had previously been understood to be permissible.  That’s only at first, of course.  Or jurisdiction-stripping statutes will start to become enacted wholesale, and Congress will start to use its funding power to good effect.  Or the President will start to launch criminal investigations of inconvenient judges.  Why not? Indeed, the escalation has already begun.  The Republicans have responded by starting to insist on roll calls for anything that happens in the Senate.  Which is technically within the rights under Senate rules, but is in practice an abuse, since the rules weren’t meant to gum up all activity.

Meanwhile, in the legislature, a number of long-standing accommodations and practices have gone by the way side in the last decades.  In the last years, the Senate has refused to enact a budget.  The House has repeatedly threatened to shut down government.  The Republican House has also repeatedly gone to the edge of a debt crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit, which heretofore had been a merely ministerial act.    They have  had some provocation.  Obamacare was the first major domestic legislation passed on a party-line vote.  It was passed used the dubious and novel ‘deem and pass’ maneuver as a way of circumventing election results in Massachusetts.

At each escalation, the other party must either respond in kind, respond in kind and add its own escalations, or else retaliate so badly that the escalating party is shocked into repentance (or destroyed).   If the other party doesn’t escalate, they get put out of business by sheer Darwinian logic.  No one can afford to bring a knife to a gunfight.  If an abuse is small enough in itself to not crush the other party for not adopting it, then more abuses are added, both because the original processes that generated the initial abuse continue, but also because the failure to respond to the first abuse invites more abuse.  Weakness is contemptible.  Often reciprocating an abuse isn’t enough.  Take the filibuster manuever, for instance.  If it succeeds at packing the DC Circuit or other circuits, Republicans will be able to appoint their own judges on party-line votes when they get into office, but they won’t be able to reverse the packing of the court because those judges will already be in office with life tenure.  So just to return to parity, they have to escalate in turn.

The precise path that escalation will trace through the judiciary, the legislature, and the presidency is uncertain.  What is certain is the destination.  No matter the path, eventually the only escalation left is the resort to arms.  All roads lead to Rome.

This isn’t a call to action.  What achievable political program can interrupt the dynamic?  This isn’t to condemn Senator Reid either.  He is acting unwisely and is blameworthy, but if he refrained, that would only change the particulars of the path, not the destination.

I predict that within my own lifetime I will see American elections based on widespread fraud, street violence, and military pressure–and I will see many other unthinkable political deeds besides.

Roman Emperor

Comments (17)
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November 21st, 2013 12:07:15

Adam G.
November 21, 2013

Mr. Henry’s predictions are running strong out of the gate.


You got any stock market tips, chief?

November 23, 2013

The Dems have already resorted to outright fraud, deception and the threat of physical violence to steal the last two presidential elections, and they’re in the process of rigging 2014 and 2016 as we sit here. Predicition: Obama wins in 2016. So your ‘prediction’ is a little tardy. The horse left the barn last year.

For those who haven’t been paying attention: 2008 was a communist coup.

Mt Top Patriot
November 23, 2013

Interesting take on our own tyranny breathing down our necks.

Past is prolog in regards those who ignore the past take the dirt nap first.

Please no offense intended. Have to comment the closing observation is rather naive, in particular, for a fellow who has such an historical grasp on the political and moral decay of Rome in relation to that cesspool down on the Potomac:

“…I predict that within my own lifetime I will see American elections based on widespread fraud, street violence, and military pressure–and I will see many other unthinkable political deeds besides.”

(had to scratch my head on that… maybe I’m putting on a tin foil hat, but it would appear all that has begun?)

For the mandarins, I think your quote, “No matter the path, eventually the only escalation left is the resort to arms. All roads lead to Rome.”, is indicative of the monopoly on perceived power and appearance of legitimacy they enjoy. (or is it crisis of legitimacy?)
Is a part of the dynamic they base their rule over us then, in a sense?

We are not all Rome. Though many political and cultural parallels exist among the elites, we are people too who are recipients of Liberty as the basis of rule of law, not the other way around. That 5000 year leap. A unique distinction that should always be exemplified at every opportunity. It is a defining moment in human history. It defined a nation unique in all of history. I reckon that counts for a lot.

I can understand the sense of doom and gloom a great many express. And how it is important, where much of it teaches us about the tyranny we are faced with. But, it ain’t going to win the day nor the war waged on our Liberty.

I hope a cohesive narrative as large on winning develops as people awaken to the dire straights the fools and criminals running things are taking our republic headlong down.

In relation to the time that has come to us there is everything to be said for a plurality of common ground in liberty. I mean, if as some virtuously proclaim, “Lets Win”, is to take hold, and the plurality is to become united across the vast geography of this land, physically, and critically culturally, what we are as sovereigns, singularly and as a whole of the people, there must be a sea change in thinking how inherently powerful an aroused plurality is.

We must learn to know this.

As events escalation as these clowns running things to go for each others throats, there in lies their vulnerability. Because at a certain point, their infighting reaches a level where the various factions are incapable of consolidating enough cooperation to fight an outside enemy. A push in the right place and the rotten edifice begins to crumble from the top down, inside out. Desperation to retain hold on power becomes motive.

The further from the intent of rule of law they travel, the weaker their “legitimacy” becomes, and to bolster this decrease in power, a proportionate increase in police state remedies is required. And the ever weaker their legitimacy with each escalation of monopoly of force becomes.

This is the bastards Achilles heel. And they are afraid, rightfully so, of what could be done to them for what they are doing to us. They should be very afraid. They have earned a comeuppance in spades.

What is far more important it seems, it is time, and signs of a great awakening of the most grass roots nature is beginning to swell, where it is critical that the people of this ground swell come to know there are millions of fellow budding patriots and partisans of the same general mind. That they share a sovereignty in common and of the highest legitimacy. This is cascade preference. It’s important in winning hearts and minds. It is culture, and as Andrew Brietbart put is so sublimely, it is upstream of politics.

Plain and simple, people got to know they are not alone, that there is common just cause that binds them to millions of others.

That is all that needs to happen, and cascade preference takes on a life and power all it’s own. Out of this grows a plurality that can not be denied. A cultural momentum. Indeed, a plurality that has within it’s sovereign body and will the capability to preserve a form of civility and resemblance of a culture based on the ideas of the rule of law and it’s moral imperative.

I got a lot out of this piece here.
Thanks for writing it.

November 23, 2013

Debasing the currency is also a sign of the times.

Violence in the streets? Organized citizens are never outnumbered by the mob.

Don’t just keep your power dry. Logistics. Food, water and fuel are as necessary to a neighborhood as ammo.

Knowing each other (the neighborhood) and knowing who you can trust at your back might be even more important.

Most important of all, knowing ourselves, and the extent our families and neighbors can count on us.

November 24, 2013

In ~1844 it was bad enough that Joseph Smith prophesied that the government would be destroyed. That was our true point of no return. If we were wicked enough to be destroyed then, then how much more so now?

Patriotism is a great thing, but the fundamental problem we are facing is wickedness. The missionaries do more in 2 years to save this country than all the political actions we undertake. I am not so much devaluing righteous politics, as I am pointing out what will actually save or damn us.

Right now, wicked politics is inevitable because of the wickedness of the people. Government, like water, is seeking its natural level and because of wickedness, that natural level right now is slavery.

T. Greer
November 27, 2013

Predictions are hard. Political predictions are especially difficult – Great Men may swing one way or another.

Demographics trends are safer bets.

I recommend Peter Turchin’s work on demographic-civilizational cycles. And from this view point, what is happening in America now is almost exactly what happened in Rome in the 1st century BC.

For a popular treatment of his work, see:

Return of the Oppressed
Peter Turchin. Aeon Magazine. 7 February 2013.

Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays
By Peter Turchin. 20 November 2013

More technical stuff can be found in his books and his blog.

Adam G.
November 28, 2013

I don’t think you have to accept any of the theories of saecular cycles to see that Patrick H. has found some similarities between our time and that of late Roman Republican time, or that he may be right about a peculiar dynamic of deteriorating political one upmanship that political systems can fall into.

But I myself am partial to a loose version of Spengler’s historical cycle, in which in most accounts the West is now at a late Roman Republican equivalent stage.

Yogi Berra
November 28, 2013

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

Patrick Henry
January 10, 2014

These leading indicators. More people are defining themselves as liberals or conservatives while the middle shrinks.

Increasingly polarized parties means less tolerance for accepting defeat, greater demands for victory, and more tolerance for pushing the limits to achieve victory or stave off defeat.

Palpatine Henry
January 28, 2014

President Obama, in the first of potentially many executive actions tied to his State of the Union address, will unilaterally increase the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25,

All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

Patrick Henry
February 13, 2014

If the news that the President is requiring businesses to certify under penalty of perjury that they aren’t shedding jobs to comply with his ACA thresholds, its a step further along.

Patrick Henry
August 7, 2014

In the late days of the Republic, Numidian princes competed to buy themselves favor at Rome.

Read down until you get to the lobbying effort part.


Patrick Henry
August 18, 2014

More political prosecutions. But the pushback means we have some ways to go.


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