David French is an outstanding lawyer who has fought for Christian causes in the court system, an Iraq vet with a bronze star and is one of the best conservative columnists in America. You can read his writing at Time and National Review. I interviewed him for the Planet Hawkins podcast and one of the things we discussed was the dangers of ending the legislative filibuster. What follows is a slightly edited for readability’s sake transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!
John Hawkins: If Democrats were able to retake the White House and Senate in 2020 or 2024, I think there’s a decent chance we could see an end to the filibuster entirely. Do you think our country can hold together long term with a sort of radical shift in governance that could create? Because what’s going to happen, we all know is if you have no filibuster, is you’re going to see radical shifts to the left when the Democrats control everything. And then radical shifts to the right one can serve as to control everything. I mean we’ve even seen it to a degree without a filibuster with Trump pulling Obama’s executive orders. I mean, big shifts there. What do you think would happen long term if we got rid of the filibuster entirely?
David French: I’ve thought a lot about this question. I think that ending the Senate’s legislative filibuster would place the future unity of the United States of America in question. And here’s what I mean about that. America is becoming an extremely polarized society in the grips of what’s called negative polarization. In other words, the reason why people are Democrats is not so much cause they love Democrat ideas but because they loathe Republicans and vice versa. Republicans now are not so much committed to Republican ideas as they loathe Democrats. So you have an extremely hostile culture. You have a large degree of geographic separation called “the big sort” where people are, are clustering in these regions that are dominated by one party or the other. In fact, John, there’s only one state in the union right now where the legislature is divided between Republican and Democratic control. Only one. All the others have unified control.
So you have this “big sort” going on and then you have this increasing authoritarian tendency that is existing on both sides. In other words, small l liberalism is under attack on the right and it’s under attack on the left. And if you add together geographic sorting, extreme negative polarization in increased authoritarianism, you’re really putting a strain on the system. And one of the things that holds that in check is, believe it or not, the legislative filibuster, which says, “You know, you’re going to have to really win a very large majority of Americans to implement sweeping change.”