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Filibuster’s Shameful Tradition of Crushing Rights Continues with DADT

The proud shameful tradition of the filibuster in our august broken Senate being used by a small group of privileged elites to deny rights to segments of this country now continues unbroken for over a century. Today, the legislative action that should have begun the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” failed to get cloture by a vote of 56 to 43 (note: for procedural reason Harry Reid had to switch his vote for yes to no). Those 43 senators used the filibuster to deny homosexuals their right to serve openly in our armed forces without government-imposed legal discrimination based on a minority status. In a sane democracy, winning 56 percent of the vote would be a victory, but sanity is at best an unwelcomed guest in the modern United States Senate.

The true history of the Senate filibuster is disgusting. It has always been a favorite tool of a handful of powerful bigots in our country to subvert democracy and prevent Americans, who happened to belong to an out group, from accessing their full Constitutional rights. The Senate rarely used filibuster one hundred years ago, but when it did, it was almost always to the determent of minorities.

The first time Congressman L.C. Dyer submitted a bill the outlaw lynching, in 1922, it was killed by a filibuster in the Senate. For roughly two decades, similar anti-lynching laws were passed in the House of Representatives only to see them die due to a filibuster in the Senate. During the same time period, the filibuster was used to stop other civil rights legislation, like eliminating the poll tax, a method most often used to prevent African Americans from voting. From the 1920s to the 1960s, the filibuster was used almost exclusively to stop civil rights legislation.

The use of the filibuster for the last century has not been about, as is often claimed, protecting the “rights” of the minority party in the Senate. In reality, it has been about the “right” of a handful of wealthy and powerful senators to deny rights to truly oppressed minorities in this country.

The fact that Democrats have allowed this insanity to continue for so long is a tragedy. They could and should eliminate this result of a 19th century rule-drafting oversight immediately and deliver on their promise. Sadly, for too many Democrats in the Senate, protecting the fabricated “rights” of a senator are infinitely more important to them than gay rights or creating an more equal society.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at