Concerning Cloture

Occasionally one reads or hears the word “cloture” in connection with the dealings of the U.S. Senate, in which some senators represent multiple thousands of citizens (in theory) while others represent tens of millions: obviously, North Dakota has as many U.S. Senators as Texas. Does this arrangement qualify as good representative democracy? Hmmm. But let us correct our course back to cloture.

A cynic might suggest that cloture is the process whereby senators may move on to getting even less accomplished than before. The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language (online) is not cynical, so it defines the word as listed below. I am going to bold the citation that amuses me most.

“The French word for the action of closing, applied (among other things) to the closing of a debate in the French Assembly by will of a majority. Thence sometimes applied to the CLOSURE in the British House of Commons at its first proposal, and (by opponents) after its introduction in 1882.

1871 Edin. Rev. Jan. 74 Before the establishment of the cloture in the French Chamber. 1881 Spectator 22 Jan. 108 Might not an unscrupulous party chief..use the cloture to arrest necessary discussion. 1882 Standard 11 Nov. 5/1 The spirit which finds its expression in the Cloture is identical with that which animates the Caucus.

I think all of us can agree that the spirits animating Cloture and Caucus do indeed seem remarkably similar.


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