By Henry Easton Koehler, Organizer
Achieving a truly hunger-free future means going beyond providing emergency food today – it requires uprooting the systems that concentrate resources and political power in the hands of few, at the expense of many.
This is why democracy work is so critical to our mission: from census outreach to voter engagement efforts to bringing awareness of critical propositions to our community – our government must be accountable to, and inclusive of, everyone.
And that is why we oppose the Senate filibuster – and call for its abolition.
We recognize and embrace the fact that this may be viewed as a controversial position. Afterall, the filibuster has been used recently to stop legislation we viewed as harmful to our mission. So, why oppose it? First… a primer.
What’s the filibuster?
The filibuster is a U.S. Senate rule (not a law or piece of legislation), dating all the way back to 1837 that allows a minority (41 out of 100) of senators to block most pieces of legislation from ever having a chance to be voted on.
Why does it matter?
The senate structure allows a small number of Americans to wield the power of a majority. This creates a number of issues – it gives smaller states disproportionate power over the general population and it’s worth noting that it preserves the power of mostly white men to prevent legislation that improves equity.
What’s more is the filibuster supercharges the concentration of political power by allowing a senate minority to block broadly popular legislation. Historically, the filibuster has been an essential tool in the obstruction of racial and economic justice – blocking civil rights legislation at every turn.
Let’s take voting rights for example.
In 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark legislative product of the civil rights movement. Since then, states have passed voter suppression laws — felony disenfranchisement, voter-roll purges and voter ID requirements — that target Black and Brown voters. Since January, 2021 at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote. Most recently, the supreme court weakened yet another key provision (Section 2) of the Voting Rights Act, upholding voter suppression laws in Arizona.
In other words: While a true democracy should value every vote, states are passing laws that are working to suppress that. These laws are, by definition, anti-democratic.
The only way to combat these rollbacks is through federal legislation to protect voting rights and restore the Voting Rights Act. That’s why we’ve endorsed two pieces of voting rights legislation — the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — that would reverse these voter suppression laws and expand equitable access to democracy.
The problem? Neither stand a chance of passing … because of the filibuster.
But it doesn’t stop with voting rights. Ending hunger will require us to pass policies that break up the racialized concentration of wealth and resources. In order to do this, we need a government that adheres to the basic definition of democracy: “The control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.” The filibuster is not a tool of compromise, it’s a tool of sabotage – no matter what side of the aisle wields it.
The filibuster stands in the way of a fully-functioning democracy.
The filibuster stands in the way of dismantling the root causes of hunger.
It’s time for the filibuster to go.