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Delaware must again stand up for what's right: End the filibuster | Opinion – The News Journal

A relic of Jim Crow is again being used to kill voting and civil rights legislation — and is threatening American democracy.
At this moment, three Delawareans are in key positions to advocate for democracy. Delaware, the Small Wonder, has been a leader in preserving American democracy when our country most needed it.
On Nov. 4, our senior Senator Tom Carper defended voting rights, declaring that “if the filibuster is standing in the way of protecting our democracy, then the filibuster isn’t working for our democracy,” and pledged that, if forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, he would choose democracy.
We are confident that Sen. Chris Coons will also do what is needed in private and in public to assure that democracy is our future.
The third Delawarean is Delaware’s own President Joe Biden. We know President Biden is a man of the Senate and a student of history. He knows that today’s filibuster, in practice, is not what it was during his Senate career or before; in the 21st Century it is unrecognizable from what it was in the past. It is a relic of Jim Crow.
After the Revolutionary War was won, our Founders first form of government failed, the Articles of Confederation, which required a supermajority for important decisions.
Our Constitution was next.
The Federalist Papers explained the Constitution.  In Federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton stated that the supermajority requirement of the Articles of Confederation, “contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.” 
In Federalist 58, James Madison pointed out that requiring a supermajority meant that, “It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority . . . a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions and the ruin of popular governments.”
Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution. 
Initially, the U.S. Senate did not have anything like the filibuster. By mistake, it was allowed and later adopted by those fighting to preserve slavery.
The filibuster allows one Senator, out of 100, to stop a bill by declaring an intent to “debate” it forever. Unlike in the movies where a courageous Senator debates as a matter of principle until collapsing from exhaustion, modern practice is that the bill never comes up for debate unless a supermajority vote to stop the “non-debate” debate. There is not majority rule in the U.S. Senate due to the filibuster.  The intent of the Founding Fathers has been subverted.
In the 20th century, the filibuster was embraced by those supporting Jim Crow, the white supremacy laws.
In 1963, the civil rights movement and two assassinations, Medgar Evers and President John F. Kennedy, resulted in new President Lyndon Johnson making passage of a strong civil rights bill his mission. It passed the House. In the Senate, it was immediately filibustered.
In 1964, it needed 67 out of 100 Senators to vote to stop the filibuster.
Enter Senator John J. Williams, a Delaware Republican.
Williams cast the 67th — and deciding vote — to overcome the filibuste, which allowed passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one of the most important laws in history. Route 24 in Sussex County is named the John J. Williams Highway.
What Williams did would not happen today. The filibuster has changed. The Senate has changed. Republicans often do not vote for the priority of a Democratic president — and the opposite often happens when there is a Republican president. Today, we have what has been referred to as superminority rule.
The numbers prove that today’s filibuster is not what it traditionally was.
The filibuster has been used 2,392 times since the present rule was enacted in 1917. From 1917 to 1980, it was only used 218 times.
It has been used an astounding 1,269 times between 2009 and 2021!  So, 53% of its use has been from President Barrack Obama becoming president to now. It is now being used to stop civil and voting rights laws as well as routine matters.
The filibuster rule can be changed with a simple majority vote in the Senate. It can be eliminated or civil and voting rights can be additional carve outs.
We should all let these three Delaware leaders, the President and our two Senators, know how much we appreciate what they are and will do to preserve democracy, not a Senate rule, which is a Jim Crow relic.
Let’s make Delaware first again.
Tom Irvine is co-chair of the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice’s Legislative-Advocacy Committee.

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