Sunday, April 08, 2012

I'm reading Master of the Senate, the third volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. Early on, Caro gives a short history of the senatorial filibuster, and it reminded me of what an unsatisfying film Mr Smith Goes to Washington is. (I love Jimmy Stewart, but I hate Frank Capra, apart from It Happened One Night.) First of all, we're supposed to see Stewart's character as a benign political revolutionary, but in that case he shouldn't be blocking just one corrupt bill, he should be effecting some sort of structural change which will prevent corruption from happening in the future. And, more importantly, we're supposed to applaud his desperate use of the filibuster, but in 1939 the filibuster was best known as way for Southern senators to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching laws. There is nothing heroic about a filibuster.

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