Today’s opponents of the filibuster share a distorted view of the Senate. They see it as a factory whose purpose is to produce legislative widgets. Senators become, in their minds, craftsmen who apply technical knowledge to make those widgets. Like all production processes, their work follows a pre-existing blueprint designed by someone else in another place and time. From Obama’s perspective, the consequence of debate inside the Senate is to give a voice to people with whom he disagrees and to delay passage of legislation he deems essential.
Abolishing the filibuster will not, by itself, end the Senate’s current dysfunction. This is because politics is not a production process. The Senate cannot be understood in terms of the organization of the political means of production. And senators cannot be conceptualized accurately as craftsmen or workers on a production line. Consequently, outcomes in the Senate cannot be known in advance. Instead, they are determined by individual senators participating in an activity that takes place, for the most part, inside the Senate. Legislation passes there due to the decisions those senators make as they act and react to one another throughout a debate.