Why the Filibuster Must Die

3 mins read

These States Have the Same Population Sizes, but the Red States Have 34 More Senators.

It’s astounding to think back to 2010, when President Obama and Congressional leadership – with both chambers solidly blue – were able to pass the Affordable Care Act by garnering 60 votes in the Senate, overcoming the likelihood of a GOP filibuster.

It seems like ancient history. It will be decades before Democrats can have that kind of presence in the Senate, if it’s even possible.

As we saw in 2018, deep partisanship is making it more and more difficult for Democrats to keep blue seats in red country. Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Bill Nelson (FL) all lost their seats – in a blue wave year.

As partisanship and conservative media dominance only increases in deep-red states, the odds of overcoming a filibuster for big-ticket progressive legislative wins become worse and worse. But never mind universal health care, green new deal or other bold policy ideas. It is going to be hard to get anything through a Senate where the threshold is 60 votes.


These 20 “red” states have the same combined population as California, New York & Oregon, but they have 40 Senators representing their 64,000,000 Americans to the blue states’ 6 Senators. This map doesn’t even include Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia or Iowa – all of which currently boast two GOP Senators.

This is simply a matter of basic math and a willingness to read the writing that is very clearly on the wall. Republicans feel no compunction about obstructing the Democratic agenda because they don’t fear any recourse from their constituents.

The GOP has a stranglehold on the Senate, and will continue to for quite some time. If Democrats play their cards right, in 2020 they will be able to squeak across the line and gain a majority in the chamber with a seat or two to spare. If they keep control of the House and also win back the White House, there will be a magical moment when the federal government can work to undo the sabotage perpetrated by Trump, McConnell & Ryan.

But they will have nowhere near the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, and you can be certain the GOP will use this tool to its maximum potential.

Setting aside social and economic policy, if we want ethics reform, a campaign finance overhaul, a voting rights/election security agenda and/or other pro-democracy legislation that will help to structurally prevent another Trump, Democrats will have to kill the filibuster to make any of it even possible.

There are absolutely downsides to eliminating the filibuster. Ideally we could protect the ability of the minority party to impact the legislative process. But we’ve moved into a new political era. The Senate is completely dysfunctional in its current form. Something’s got to give.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Nick Knudsen - a political activist and freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest - is DemCast USA's Executive Director. Nick has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly 20 years as a writer, development officer and program director. He has a BA from Cornell and MA from Stanford, but didn't start learning until he had kids.

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