Drawing on part of the argument from my recent book, The Senate: From White Supremacy to Government Gridlock (University of Virginia Press, 2021), I critique what I call “Senate exceptionalism:” the notion that the Senate is the framers’ particularly special or remarkable creation. I do so by contrasting the historical and constitutional distortions that support this institutional conceit with the realities of the founding and American political development. After reviewing the parallels between the ideas and tenets of American and Senate exceptionalism, I introduce four arguments from the book that undermine the basis of the Senate’s exceptionalism and in particular draw critical attention to the constitutional mythology surrounding and supporting the filibuster in the form of Senate Rule XXII and its three-fifths supermajority threshold for ending debate on many matters before the Senate.
About the author
Daniel Wirls is a Professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his PhD in Government from Cornell University in 1988 and has been teaching at Santa Cruz ever since. His research interests range across American politics, institutions, public policy, and political history. Among other works he is the author of The Senate: From White Supremacy to Government Gridlock (University of Virginia Press, 2021); The Invention of the United States Senate (with Stephen Wirls), and The Federalist Papers and Institutional Power in American Political Development.
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