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What does the filibuster teach our children?

After learning that the principles of majority rule and democracy are the grandest and noblest of all political ideas, that the sacrifices of the Revolutionary War were required to establish them for our nation, that they were a reaction against thousands of years of despotic history, that they were subsequently adopted by many other nations, that they were enshrined in our Constitution by the courageous and brilliant Founders; students then learn that 41 Senators representing just 11% of the nation's population can block action on anything, even if it's favored by the other 89%.


What lesson does this teach our children and others around the world yearning for democracy? It sends the message that it is acceptable (even right and just, if you listen to filibuster apologists) for minority factions to thwart the majority, that being in the majority does not mean that you deserve to prevail, that a minority has the right to block the will of the majority.

The filibuster sends a profoundly subversive and anti-democratic message; one that undermines democracy, trust in our form of government, and the rule of law. It's also a dangerous message as extremists and despots of all stripes take heart from the message that it's the right of a minority to thwart the majority and to impose unwanted outcomes on it.

An essential characteristic of democracy is majority rule. Within the limits of individual rights and authorities set out in a constitution, the will of the majority prevails in a democracy. It is the right of the majority to pass its policies and legislation. If the electorate later changes its mind, it is the right of subsequent majorities to change those policies and laws.

Much is written of the rights of the minority, but what of the rights of the majority? The rules of the Senate blatantly violate both the rights of the majority and the principles of democracy.

In a democracy, the right of the minority is this: the right to be heard in order to try to persuade others to your view. If you are still in the minority after making your case, then you lose the day. The majority wins. And if the minority has had its say, then it is the responsibility of the minority to go along with the majority. That's how a democracy works. You don't hear any of today's filibuster apologists talking about the responsibilities of the minority, do you?  

The Founders would be appalled to see how the Senate has twisted the minority right to be heard into the right to permanently block any action a minority faction doesn't like.

The filibuster is an obscenity in the soul of our democracy.

The Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to make its own rules, but the Senate rules allowing filibusters are an irresponsible abuse of that power, and it is strangling our democracy, our government, our society, and our economy.

Think about what that teaches the children.

You can read more quiet outrage about the filibuster in The Senate: a crime against democracy.

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