The Filibuster Was Grounded in Slavery and Now Threatens All Life on Earth

It has to end, and you can help

Thom Hartmann

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It’s time to end the filibuster and bring democracy to the US Senate.

The filibuster was invented by “the Grandfather of the Confederacy” John C. Calhoun, and its only purpose is to block legislation that otherwise has broad popular support but is opposed by racists and big corporate special interest groups.

It’s not even in the Constitution; the Founders were horrified by the thought of such a thing, because it allows a 2/5ths minority of senators to block any action by the senate majority.

Sadly, two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are blocking the Senate from killing this democracy-crippling anachronism.

The hidden history of the filibuster

The Founding generation were almost universally opposed to anything resembling the filibuster; James Madison fought any such rule right up until his death in 1836.

It is, after all, anti-democratic in that it gives a minority of senators the ability to block any legislation simply by raising their hand or sending a one-sentence note to their colleagues. A single senator can invoke it, and a minority of 41 out of 100 senators can sustain it until legislation dies.

By the 1830s, the institution of slavery was under widespread attack in America. England had outlawed it, northern states were hardening their opinions, and the national debate that erupted a decade earlier with the Missouri Compromise was becoming heated.

Former President John Quincey Adams (1825–1829), after he left the White House, ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives with the main purpose of ending slavery; Congress had passed a law against slavery even being mentioned in debate on the floor and Adams went out of his way to break that law every single day that Congress was in session.

John C. Calhoun had been Adams’ Vice President (they were bitter enemies; it was because nobody won a majority in the Electoral College and the election was thrown to the House) and then Andrew Jackson’s Vice President. In 1832, he resigned as VP to be appointed to South…

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Thom Hartmann

America’s #1 progressive talk show host & NY Times bestselling author. Thom’s writings also appear at HartmannReport.com.