Dear Honorable Fellow Senators Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Ken Salazar (Colorado), Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John Warner (Virginia), Olympia Snowe (Maine),
Let us offer our sincere congratulations to all of you for having the intestinal fortitude to join with us in what will go down in history as the single act that saved the nation in 2005. By banding together, seven democrats and seven republicans, to effect a profound compromise in which our leaders failed to participate – indeed, treated with disdain – to save the filibuster from certain death, thereby preserving the power of the minority to thwart the elected majority, we have shown the nation what legislative valor can accomplish. In refusing to follow our respective leaders, we face consequences, as we well know, having played the devil with stubborn subordinates in our own organizations and made them pay dearly for opposing/exposing us. It is therefore incumbent upon us to protect our derrieres, and there is no better way to do that than in supporting each other.
It is with this in mind that we write. As it stands, there are 55 republicans, 44 democrats, and one independent in the Senate. Actually, there are 45 democrats, since Senator Jeffords has cast his lot with that group and been rewarded handsomely, or at least he was when he switched parties, even though his intended result was relatively short-lived. If each of us chooses to stand alone in the aftermath of our stunning accomplishment, we will be at the mercy of those who lacked the courage to rebel against Constitutional considerations regarding cloture, admittedly not remarked in that document, but should have been. After all, what did those mostly backwoods legislators know in the late 1700s? Some even owned slaves and, contrary to most senators of today, had not even finished high school, let alone even seen the inside of a university law school. Without question they understood filibustering, of course (most 6th-graders who claim the dog ate the homework do), but they never understood its value in the way we do. Its efficacy is easily seen in the fact that a judicial nominee, though favored by the majority, was not confirmed for four years. The fact that she was, though not our intention, proves that we undid practically a sacred rite without destroying cloture, never mind our abhorrence of the outcome. A filibuster of four years without actually having to make speeches 24/7 is no laughing matter. Losing the right to obstruct, while seemingly a defeat, represents victory in that it shows the value – the absolute necessity – of compromise and signals to the nation that non-partisanship is alive and well.
There are those in our respective parties who brand us as traitors, some of us regarding the right to save cloture at 60 percent, and others in the right for all judicial nominees to get an up-or-down vote. In other words, in the spirit of traitor Benedict Arnold, a man without a country, standing alone means that each of us is a senator without a congress. Standing together, on the other hand, means that the fourteen of us, representing 14 percent of the Senate, can, while not necessarily winning anything, decide who does win on most questions, and that is important, not least because it gives us the whip hand in close calls at a time when all the important calls are close ones. If we stand as a group, that means that there will be 48 republicans and 38 democrats, meaning that we could always forestall the republicans from voting cloture at 60 percent or anything else at 50 percent, while giving the filibuster to the democrats forever and helping them pass anything at 52 percent.
We’re sure you can see where we’re going with this. We can form a new party, but not just any third party; rather, we can form a third party with real power. More to the point, we’ll preserve our place in the Senate, not just as backbenchers but players so important that the other Senators will have to come to us hat-in-hand (or coiffure-in-comb) to get anything done…or undone. Indeed, as a party we will always hold the balance of power, just as minority parties do in other countries such as Israel. We can form a tyranny of the minority that will make the tyranny of the current minority, which we just destroyed, look like a cub scout project, though admittedly (and even political tyrants should be honest), we only affected the matter of judicial appointees. In the bargain, we’ll hold the feet of the president to the fire, since he (or someone with gravitas – maybe Cheney) will understand that we are the collective swing vote on everything.
Moreover, we will comprise the entity to which all candidates for the Senate and the presidency must apply even to be considered, whether in primaries, conventions, or general elections. If we form a party, our national convention will be the one everyone will be watching, not the stodgy, artificial, boilerplate-oratory-cursed conventions held by the reds and blues and virtually emasculated by the stupid primaries. We’ll galvanize the voters and do it easily because everyone will know that anything we promise cannot be expected, since we have nothing like a majority…although it’s not hard to imagine carrying states like California, Massachusetts, and perhaps one or two others states on the lunatic fringe, but certainly not any of your states.
It is our hope that you will join in this effort to form a unity marked by an integrity unimagined in the politics of any era. A meeting time and place in an unused federal building in West Virginia will be announced later. Be thinking of a name for the new party. In the 3rd-party split-spirit of the Bull Moose outfit of republican Teddy Roosevelt, who handed the presidency to democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912, as well as the demo-dixiecrats of the 40s-60s who probably helped elect republicans Eisenhower and Nixon, we could form a name; however, since those events are remembered by people still living, it might be well to go back a bit farther, perhaps to the Mugwump-era of 1884, when the Republican Party was split by the mugwumpers. Republicratwump has a nice ring, but, recognizing the seniority established by one of the undersigned, perhaps something like Demomugwumpican would serve. We’re counting on the mutual loyalty we’ve all established and will poll you soon.
Senator Robert Byrd (West Virginia)
Senator John McCain (Arizona)