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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Fix: Filibuster Again Used to Oppress Minorities

The defense authorization bill containing a repeal of the discriminative “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy failed today in the Senate for a second time this year because it could only secure a majority of 57 votes. Once again, the shameful history of the filibuster being mainly a tool of bigots used to crush the rights of minorities continues. I said this the first time DADT failed this year, but it is no less true today:

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.

This is, of course, the “proud” tradition of their chamber that so many senators feel the need to defend, even if it is at the cost of denying health care to 9/11 rescue workers.

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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