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By Dylan Basescu

Senior, GW

In 1781, the Articles of Confederation became the law of the land in the United States. This new government under the Articles, concerned heavily with the protection of minority rule, required a two-thirds majority to pass any law. Given the dysfunction and gridlock this created, it is no wonder this government was abolished in favor of a constitution which allowed for simple majority rule in both chambers of Congress. Today, however, we require three-fifths of the Senate to pass most laws. This aberration from the design set out by the founders is a betrayal of the American belief in democratic self-government. The filibuster, which requires more Senators than a simple majority to approve of most legislation, must be abolished.

Any argument for abolishing the filibuster must address its policy consequences. Those consequences are quite simple: it would become possible to pass massively popular progressive proposals. Based on the historical record of what sort of legislation the filibuster has blocked, these policies will reduce inequality, expand human rights, and make our political system more democratic. This makes it clear why conservatives are opposed to abolishing the filibuster: they are opposed to majoritarian governance and the progressive policies it will create. Conservatives wish to concentrate economic, social, and political power in the hands of a small minority of our country. This was the case when William F. Buckley argued to preserve white minority rule, it is the case when present-day conservative intellectuals argue to establish explicit minority rule, and it is the case now with their defense of the filibuster. The filibuster is just one more part of this larger struggle to silence the majority of the American people and block the policies they support.

 

Conservatives argue that the filibuster protects progressives as well. They gravely predict what may happen to future progressive efforts if conservatives come to control all branches of government by a simple majority with no filibuster in place. This, however, is a specious argument. If they really believed that they could more easily come to control the government and advance their policies through majoritarianism, they would be advocating to abolish the filibuster as well. However, conservatives and Republicans recognize that abolishing the filibuster will doom their smaller, less popular, and less supported party to irrelevance. They could change this by adopting beliefs most Americans support; but, at the moment, they have no real incentive to do this. Why would they when the filibuster gives their minority so much power?  The truth is that they are simply afraid of a level playing field because they know that they will lose. 

 

We live in a democratic republic. That first word, democratic, means that the popular will — expressed through a majority of our elected officials — is supposed to be enacted. Popular rule must then be taken as the default, and any step away from it must be heavily justified by practical circumstances and pragmatic outcomes. The burden of proof is on conservatives to show why the American people cannot be trusted to elect a popular government which operates by majority rule. Conservatives do not believe the simple majority of Americans can be trusted with democracy, and it is up to them to say why they are so afraid of the majority of the American people. There is only one alternative: abolish the filibuster, embrace democracy, trust the American people to elect a government which represents their interests, and argue on the merits of policy rather than trying to grind the government to a halt.

No, the Filibuster Should Not Be Abolished

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No, It Should Not Be Abolished, But It Should Be Made Harder to Filibuster

The filibuster has recently been increasingly perceived as a rule that has stalled progress and stopped leaders from addressing issues that voters elected them to rectify. However, while the filibuster of today should be reformed, abolishing it would threaten our...

The Filibuster Should Be Abolished

In 1781, the Articles of Confederation became the law of the land in the United States. This new government under the Articles, concerned heavily with the protection of minority rule, required a two-thirds majority to pass any law. Given the dysfunction and gridlock...
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