I do not love America.
To be fair, I don’t quite know what “America” is. Is it defined by the piece of paper that once counted me as three-fifths human or a series of borders on a map? Is America defined by the laws that govern it, or is it the people governed by the laws? Is it an idea or an institution?
For me, these are not rhetorical questions. I truly want to know what people mean when they say they “love America.” How can one love their country and the Confederacy that betrayed it? Is it possible to love the land of the free and the home of the slaves? I cannot comprehend an unconditional love that includes Native American massacres and human bondage and Jim Crow and spitting on Black children and shitting on the walls of Congress.
Unless, by “America,” they mean they love the institutions. When you are insulated from the harsh reality of colonialism, oppression and thievery, it’s not difficult to love the Constitution, the flag and the utopian ideas they represent. A true America lover would condemn this nation’s slow stroll toward a “more perfect union” unless they were originally included in the equality of “all men.” How can one hold affection for a democracy that strips its Black citizens of the right to participate in it? Loving America is a perplexing thing.
Unless, by “America,” you mean “white supremacy.”
Then, it all makes sense.
Perhaps more than anything in the history of the American government, the filibuster remains the most durable, relic of white supremacy. Even though requiring 60 votes for senators to do their fucking job is just something Aaron Burr made up in 1806, it has just been accepted without question. It is an undemocratic political speedbump created by white men who were willing to sacrifice the humanity of Black people for the sake of appeasing a minority coalition of human traffickers insisting on their right to rape, murder and own Black people.
Let’s be clear: The filibuster means nothing. It does not ensure a bipartisan consensus nor does it protect the minority party. The 60-vote threshold to close debate has been repeatedly modified or wholly abolished whenever the majority party deems it necessary.
When Republicans obstructed Obama’s federal court picks, Democrats eliminated the filibuster requirement for federal judicial nominees. Republicans did it to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. For most of its history, the procedural rule required debate-stalling senators to talk the entire time...until it didn’t. At one time, the House of Representatives also had a filibuster rule...until it didn’t.
Because it is stupid.
And yes it is a tool of white supremacy.
Barack Obama, hardly a radical, called the filibuster “another Jim Crow relic.” That’s because, for 99 years, every single anti-lynching bill presented in the Senate has been filibustered, including Rand Paul blocking the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act on the day of George Floyd’s funeral. Strom Thurmond held the longest one-man filibuster in U.S. history to stall the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Southern Democrats hold the record for the longest party filibuster to block the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even Woodrow Wilson, a staunch advocate for the supremacy of whiteness, noted that “The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action,” adding: “A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.”
But as Senate Democrats display an increased willingness to abolish or change the filibuster, it is not just Republicans or conservatives who are defending the archaic legislative loophole as an important institutional tool for stalling progress. While President Joe Biden recently reversed course on his support for the filibuster, some Democrats are siding with Republicans on the necessity of keeping the fabricated institutional mandate alive.
Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) said they’re not yet convinced of the merits of slashing the Senate’s supermajority requirement, though Tester conceded he “didn’t come here to get nothing done.” The Montanan described the talking filibuster as a “good idea,” though he would still want to require 60 votes at the end of the process.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she’s “undecided” but has concerns about what would happen when Republicans eventually take back control of the Senate: “It is one of the reasons I am hesitant.” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said it’s “premature” to completely ax the filibuster.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said he’s “very reluctant” to make that change given the prospect of conservative retribution: “It’s a double-edged sword that I think the advocates for [change] are ignoring.”
“We can reform the filibuster. I don’t support eliminating it. There are ways to make it work better,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who supports adding a talking component to the process.
They do not love America.
I do not love the Democratic Party.
To be fair, I also do not believe that a political party is worthy of love any more than a hammer or a baseball bat or a pair of needle-nosed pliers. For me, a political party is a tool for fixing things that are broken. A political party is something I wield for my protection—nothing more, nothing less. This is why I can’t understand people who criticize Black voters by pointing out that the Democratic Party does not love Black people. They’re right. I expect the same amount of love from the Democratic Party as I get from a pistol or a Phillips screwdriver.
While the Democratic Party serves as Black America’s ball-peen hammer for beating back the Grand Old Party’s unrepentant pro-whiteness, no one expected the old white men who control the Democratic Party to transform themselves into a faction of the New Black Panther Party and suddenly go to war for Black America. Unlike their Republican counterparts, who repeatedly kowtow to their base’s white nationalism, xenophobia and hate, white Democrats seem to have the mantra: “Whiteness first. Party second.”
Tim Scott (R-Sunken Place) is willing to kick Black people in the teeth to protect his party. Susan Collins will throw women under a speeding bus to side with the GOP caucus. But Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are more than willing to sacrifice their party constituents’ humanity for the sake of appeasing a white majority who will not vote for them. They will protect the institutions of this country before they protect the people. Bernie Sanders is willing to fight tooth and nail for Medicare for All, but when it comes to reparations, he thinks “there are better ways” to end the poverty and the racial wealth gap “than writing a check.”
This motherfucker’s whole platform is based on writing checks!
Ultimately, the Democratic support for the institutional culture of “fuck Black people” is not just cowardly, it is also self-defeating. The Democratic Party would not have a legislative majority if not for the Black voters who propelled them to victory. Without that majority, the Democratic Party stands no chance of enacting their legislative agenda.
Democrats wary of overhauling the filibuster contend that Republicans could use it to pass draconian laws rolling back women’s rights, access to polls and anti-discriminatory legislation if they regain power. They’re probably right. But here’s the thing:
They are going to do it anyway!
The GOP does not care about rules! They did away with the filibuster to pack the federal courts with unqualified, right-wing zealots. They canceled it to put a beer-drinking frat-boy and a handmaiden on the Supreme Court. They didn’t need no stinkin’ filibuster when they wanted to confirm William Barr as attorney general. Then, they used the federal courts, the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to roll back rights for every non-white, non-heterosexual, non-Christian citizen who dared step foot in their Caucasian democracy. Attorney General Merrick Garland only was available to lead the Department of Justice because Republicans filibustered his Supreme Court nomination. If not for the filibuster, there would be a real possibility of police reform, a $15 minimum wage, election reform and immigration reform. The COVID-19 stimulus package only passed because of the use of the budget reconciliation loophole.
If the GOP cared about rules, progress or tradition, Trump would have been ousted from office, Biden’s cabinet would have been confirmed during the transition period and the faint smell of sedition, dookey, and dog hair wouldn’t be wafting through the halls of Congress. Protecting the filibuster does not prevent Republicans from enacting their agenda in the future. It only prevents Democrats from enacting their agenda today.
There is no logical reason to preserve a rule whose only reason for existence is to prevent progress. The filibuster is antithetical to everything America supposedly stands for.
Unless, of course, “America” means “white supremacy.”