The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

New Fix Our Senate Report Examines the Filibuster's History as a Racist Tool to Obstruct Voting Rights

Report details how the filibuster has blocked progress on voting rights, civil rights, and democracy reform."No dispute among historians"—report disproves Senator McConnell’s brazen false claims of "no racial history."


A new report from Fix Our Senate details the "long and shameful history of segregationists and racists using the filibuster to block necessary progress on voting rights and democratizing our democracy." The comprehensive examination breaks down how the filibuster was used to block equal treatment under the law - specifically on voting rights, civil rights, and democracy reform - and how that use continues today. The report release comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today, "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote," and as Senator Mitch McConnell makes clear his intention to use the filibuster to block S.1, the "For The People Act."

Senator McConnell recently falsely claimed that the filibuster has "no racial history at all" and "there's no dispute among historians about that." Yet as the report details, throughout history racists and segregationists have used the filibuster to undermine bills that would combat voter suppression and protect civil rights.

The report focused on the filibuster's origins; its usage as a tool to block voting rights and democracy reforms; and the recognition that if we don't eliminate the filibuster, it will effectively provide Senator McConnell veto power over efforts to strengthen our democracy. Notable excerpts from the report include:

"Much of the legislation passed during the Civil Rights Movement that is now considered foundational equal rights law was initially met with stark opposition and faced numerous filibusters from senators who wanted to postpone or prevent that progress. Since then, the filibuster has been used to block voting rights in a slightly more discreet manner, thwarting bills that would abolish the Electoral College and strengthen campaign finance laws - both of which would make our democracy more representative by redistributing power and influence away from the wealthy and toward historically underrepresented groups."

"The filibuster - the legacy of a 19th century drafting error - is a racist tool of obstruction that impedes national progress, especially in the realm of democracy reform and voting rights. It enables the will of the minority to be prioritized over the passage of legislation to help the American people."

"The filibuster is not just a relic of our nation's racist past - it is also a present-day obstacle that will continue to block progress within the realms of democracy reform, voting rights, and many other areas. If we don't eliminate the filibuster, we are giving Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans the ability to veto any and all attempts to strengthen our democracy and voting protections - reforms which were promised to voters when we delivered the Senate and the presidency."

Fix Our Senate spokesperson Eli Zupnick was quoted as saying:

"Despite Senator McConnell's false claims, the historical record is clear: there is a long and shameful history of segregationists and racists using the filibuster to block overdue progress on civil rights, voting rights and other efforts to build a more inclusive democracy. Senators can protect the filibuster, which President Obama called a 'Jim Crow relic,' or they can protect our democracy and the right to vote. They cannot do both."