By now most of the United States knows that the filibuster, in the past, has been used for some really awful things. Certainly at the top of the list is Strom Thurmond's truly sickening 24 hour filibuster of a civil rights bill in 1957. Or the successful filibuster of a 1949 civil rights bill. It wasn't until 1964 that the Senate actually got the two thirds needed at the time to beat the filibuster of Civil Rights legislation (even then, the filibuster went on for 57 days).
Certainly, the Senate's procedural rules have changed. In the early 20th century, you needed two thirds of the Senators present to end debate. It was changed in 1949 to two thirds of all Senators, and then in the 1970s to three fifths of all Senators.
But I suppose my question is this: if the filibuster has been used for such truly awful purposes in the past, and it has been basically kept around, what justification do republicans have for trying to get rid of it now?
They claim the filibustering of judicial nominees is unprecedented (even though it isn't), but I'm sure Sen. Robert LaFollette's attempt in 1917 to filibuster a bill in support of WWI was also unprecedented at the time. In fact, at some point in the country's history, filibustering civil rights legislation was unprecedented. Before John Quincy Adams' first filibuster in 1828, the filibuster itself was unprecedented.
All of which is to say that the argument from precedent doesn't mean anything. Indeed, the argument about the merit of the filibuster itself seems to me to be obviously and solely partisan-ly based. If you're in the majority right now, you're against it. If you're in the minority, you're for it. All I'm saying here is that republican claims that they have some sort of reasoning behind their partisan power grab are false and hypocritical.
The more I think about it, the more I wish that Dems hadn't been drawn into a fight over the filibuster itself. Arguing about it is like arguing about any procedural rule: needing a two-thirds majority to over-ride a presidential veto, etc. Procedural rules can be used for good or for evil, as, indeed, can any process for making any decision at all (pace some conservatives, popular majorities don't always make the right decisions -- anyone that supported either George W. Bush in 2000 or John Kerry in 2004 must admit that; and that's pretty much the entire American political spectrum). The debate always should have been about the nominees themselves, and that's all.