The Fecalnomics of The Filibuster

When you add a super-majority vote to an already undemocratic U.S. Senate, you compound the difficulty of accomplishing anything. Exactly how difficult does it become? Eleven percent of the population gets to veto anything the other 89 percent agree to!

With two Senators from each state, the U.S. Senate is a geographical body, not a democratic body. The two Senators from California represent more people than the 44 Senators representing the smallest 22 states. That makes the U.S. Senate neither representative nor democratic.

Property Holds a Majority of Senate Seats

While the democratically-elected House members represent people, the undemocratic Senate in effect represents land, or property. Property gets to vote in the United States and what it votes for is property rights, so much so that property rights have greater protection than human rights. Property is guaranteed a disproportionate vote, free speech, unlimited campaign finance, limited liability and eternal life. You have more rights as a vacant field in America than you have as a human being.

Eighteen percent of the people can wield a majority in the U.S. Senate, and 11% have the right to veto anything they don’t like. That is nowhere near majority rule. It empowers a super-minority to frustrate the will of even a super-majority.

Property gets control of the U.S. Senate by pouring campaign funds into small population states to buy enough seats to block a super-majority. They don’t even have to spend that much, thanks to the filibuster. Their funding can be laser-targeted to get the 11% they need to give the middle finger to popular reforms. They can do it with one finger out of ten. It’s like all they have is a middle finger (the veto) and they can use it to defeat both hands.

What If Your Family Had a Filibuster?

I wish we had the filibuster when I was growing up. I’m the middle child of nine siblings. That rounds to 11%. We did a lot of voting when I was a kid. The majority (five votes) was enough to decide any issue, except my parents had control of the executive branch and largely ignored the expressed wishes of the governed.

If my family was rigged up like the U.S. Senate, however, with only 11% needed for a veto, any one child in my family could veto the wishes of the other eight siblings. What that would have meant for me growing up is I could have vetoed going to a restaurant I didn’t like, and vetoing any TV program I didn’t want to watch. On the other hand, I would never have had a birthday party because some sibling would certainly veto it.

An 11% veto in a nine-sibling group means you need 100% unanimity to pass anything. Imagine if the U.S. Supreme Court had a filibuster: Any single justice could veto any decision, even decisions that have eight justices supporting. How many decisions would survive that sort of undemocratic authority? How often does the Supreme Court vote 9-0 on any controversial case?

How many people would play sports if one umpire could overrule the rest of the umpiring crew? What would school be like if it only took three students to block the rest of the class from participating in any exams or activities? What company could succeed if every board member could veto the decisions of the rest of the board of directors?

Why Isn’t the U.S. Senate More Democratic?

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution called for the direct election of Senators by the voters of their states. Prior to that, Senators were appointed by state legislatures. Something must have happened to compel two-thirds of the states — the super-majority required under the Constitution — to change how Senators were chosen. What was it?

Graft. The way Senators were appointed is they bribed influential state legislators to appoint them. Consequently, Senators tended to be the wealthiest, most repugnant people in the commonwealth who could not possibly earn the vote of a majority of their constituents. Hard to believe, but 100 years ago Senators were hated even more than Senators are hated today.

With direct election of Senators came the 11% solution. The filibuster was meant to protect the ability of minority opinions to be heard but it has had the opposite effect. At first, it did allow Senators the ability to speak their mind, with 60% of the Senate required to shut a Senator up. Crafty Senators realized the power of the filibuster was not stalling popular legislation, but eliminating the ability of the Senate to conduct any other business around the filibusters.

A deal was cut to allow the ordinary business of the Senate to proceed in exchange for requiring 60 votes on any legislation where any one Senator indicated an intention to filibuster. A marvel of Democracy the Senate is not! One Senator can force any law to require a supermajority, Senators representing as few as 11% of the people can block a super-majority, and it takes a super-duper-majority of 34 states to change the rules. Who came up with this system? Oh yeah, white wealthy land “owners.” Hey, that sort of describes the Senate we have now.

The Solution to the 11% Solution

The Senate has been changed in the past, can be changed in the future, and must be changed unless we are content letting the tail wag the dog. The easiest change would be to eliminate it completely. I cannot think of a single good argument for having two legislative chambers, one democratic and one landocratic.

Another solution is to give every Senator a number of votes equal to their proportion of the population. The Senators from California, for example, would each get 11 votes. You could still have two Senators elected statewide from each state, but bestow them with a number of votes commensurate with the number of people they represent. That would make Senators from big-population states instantly much more “powerful.”

For now, the Constitution is rigged to give property a vote and further rigged to require a huge super-majority to change the rules. You’d have an easier time convincing your parents you don’t have to do what you’ve been told. So run along to bed now, you silly democrats, and don’t forget to pick up your room!

Steve O’Keefe is the author of several books, most recently Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, from New World Library, based on over 250 interviews. He is the former editorial director for Loompanics Unlimited.