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.

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