Jack Rakove has a good piece in the Washington Post pointing out that the filibuster in the Senate does not induce deliberation. Instead, it has essentially become a supermajoritarian requirement to lawmaking giving us a Senate “that prefers parliamentary obstruction to constructive deliberation — something the “greatest deliberative body in the world” now seems incapable of doing.”
This is not what James Madison had in mind. On that, Peter Wehner has a great essay that echoes much of what has been said here about representatives actually reasoning and thinking—deliberating about the public good—rather than simply being the mouthpieces of their constituents. As Wehner writes, lawmakers make a “fundamental conceptual error in believing that their task was simply to reflect the views of their constituents, no matter how menacing, rather than, in the words of James Madison, to ‘refine and enlarge the public views’ by passing them ‘through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.’”
The ability to reason and deliberate is essential to constitutional government.
In that spirit, the Senate should insist on witnesses at the impeachment trial this time around. The impeachment managers should approach this as if senators can be persuaded. Maybe they can’t. But to skip evidence and arguments, to speed things up now, because you rightly suspect that many senators are not open to being persuaded, is a sure way to provide cover for them. Don’t just play the video clips of Trump’s speech and the insurrections at the Capitol. Call people to testify who know specifics. Demand they come. Call in members of Trump’s staff and those who organized the event. Call in Vice President Pence. Let’s hear from them how events unfolded that led to the violent insurrection on January 6th. This sort of knowledge is essential to the Senate’s deliberations over conviction and disqualification.