Pollster on Filibuster: “A Lot of Ground to Cover”

Photo used under a Creatives Commons license by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/midgetbusdriver/3662945409/" target="_blank">Erica Reid</a>

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On Friday I highlighted the public’s chronic ambivalence about the issue of the filibuster. After 12 months of filibuster-powered obstruction, only a quarter of Americans know much about it, which is roughly how things played out in 2005 as well, when Republicans unsuccessfully pursued the “nuclear option” to end the procedure. Today I talked to Pew’s Andrew Kohut to get his explanation of why the filibuster might not be the winning argument some Democrats seem to think it is.

 

The takeaway is this: While progressives bind the filibuster to specific issues like health care (for the GOP in 2005 it was abortion), the public by and large approaches it from a much different perspective. “I think what happens in those situations is that the public seems to think that they’re somehow losing the check of one party against the other,” Kohut told me. “I don’t want to exaggerate this point but people take comfort in the fact that Republicans are looking over the shoulder of the Democrats and vice versa. Changing the rules to deal with [gridlock] I think raises some anxiety.” (No kidding: here’s what we wrote back in 2005).

 

As for turning the issue into a populist barnburner, Kohut’s prognosis was less than optimistic: “I don’t have a crystal ball on this one,” he said. “But when you have only 26 percent of the public that knows how many votes it takes to break a filibuster, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

 

Follow Tim Murphy on Twitter.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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