Who Hates Filibusters?

Captain’s Quarters, a conservative blog, looks at the Senate’s apology for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation decades ago and concludes… that the Senate ought to be apologizing for the filibuster. I agree! The filibuster is a terrible thing, and has long been a terrible thing throughout history. The captain gets his facts a bit muddled (Southern Democrats most certainly did control the Senate, via committee chairmanships that they acquired through seniority), but his larger point is correct. Were it not for the filibuster, this country would have had: anti-lynching laws, faster progress on civil rights, universal health care, stronger labor rights. In other words, it would have been easier, in general, to pass progressive legislation. I’m glad that conservatives are hopping aboard this project, for whatever reason.

Now does that mean the filibuster is inappropriate in all cases? No, not necessarily. I happen to think it’s an appropriate measure, on principle, for judicial nominees, though I’ll admit I’m not really all that adamant on this point. But it’s also true that liberals have found, more often than not throughout history, that they have the votes to pass progressive measures, only to be quelched by a handful of reactionaries in the Senate wielding the filibuster. The most recent case I can think of was a labor bill during the Clinton administration that would have prevented striking workers from being permanently replaced. Blocked by Republicans. (They also ran the clock out on the health care debate in 1993 with the filibuster.) So yes, right now is certainly as good a time as any to use the Senate’s shameful history on anti-lynching as an opportunity to examine whether having a sluggish and wholly unrepresentative legislative chamber is the best thing for this country to have, both now and in the future.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.