The reason why we are all holding our breaths today about the vote in Massachusetts's special election can be summed up in one word: filibuster If it wasn't for the filibuster and its requirement that motions to stop debate get 60 votes, then we wouldn't care. We wouldn't care because the Dem majority would go from 10 to 9 and, frankly, while it would be embarrassing to lose Ted Kennedy's old seat, it would not be critical. No, it is only critical because the Senate has the filibuster.
Now, the filibuster is not dictated by the United States Constitution, unlike, say the requirement that every state have two Senators. It was contrived by the Senate itself and has been used by reactionaries to make an institution deliberately designed to be conservative even more conservative.
Of course, just as it was used by Dixiecrats to stop civil rights legislation, it is now being used by Republicans to stop progressive legislation, or, in the case of the health-care reform bill, to take liberal legislation and turn it into conservative mush.
So, how do we get rid of it? Well, two Republicans who used to work for Bill Frist when he was Republican Majority Leader wrote an article for the Harvard Law Review on what they referred to as the "constitutional option." Click on the link to read the article. Then, contact Senator Sherrod Brown's office and tell them that you think the filibuster should go.