Three Flaws

Three accepted and legal practices in our national legislature, the Congress, regularly debilitate our democracy: the filibuster, the electoral college, and the election of two senators from every state, regardless of size. I want to address all three, one at a time. Today I start with the filibuster.

“Filibuster” is a political procedure in which one or more members of the U.S. Senate prolong debate on proposed legislation so as to delay or entirely prevent it’s passage. It is sometimes referred to as “talking a bill to death” or “talking out a bill,” and is characterized as a form of obstruction. It is regularly used by the Republicans—especially if they are in the minority—to prevent the passage of bills they oppose.

The origin of the term is intriguing. Here I quote the website Oxford Languages: Late 18th century: from French flibustier, first applied to pirates who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies. In the mid-19th century (via Spanish filibustero), the term denoted American adventurers who incited revolution in several Latin American states, whence filibuster (sense 2 of the noun). The verb was used to describe tactics intended to sabotage U.S. congressional proceedings, whence filibuster (sense 1 of the noun).

The best known and perhaps most outrageous use of the filibuster has been by Republicans to prevent the passage of measures that would reduce gun violence and address civil rights. That problem promises to continue until the Senate agrees to remove the filibuster. That’s not likely to occur as long as the Republicans are in or near the majority.

More next time.

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