The Filibuster Litmus Test

Because of conservative ("bipartisan") opposition to voting rights, the $15 minimum wage, the infrastructure bill, fair taxation, etc. there is a very much sharpened focus on the Jim Crow filibuster, which is slowly becoming a bigger part of the national debate. All of the Blue America-endorsed candidates would like to see drastic filibuster reform. The first candidate that started campaigning on it was North Carolina progressive Erica Smith. Her campaign has called on "every single candidate running for the Democratic nomination to clarify their position on the filibuster. If it's anything short of full abolition, North Carolinians deserve to hear why."

Right now, for Jeff Jackson and Cheri Beasley, the two tepid establishment status quo candidates, it’s very much short of full abolition. This year's Cal Cunningham, Jeff Jackson, is "skeptical" and Cheri Beasley, the very polite EMILY's List recruit, says she has to "take a look at it" (because it’s only existed for about 200 years). Here at Blue America, we think candidates should take a look at the crucial issues before they run, not when they're trying to figure out what voters and donors want to hear. While her corporate opponents are focused on keeping things the same, Erica’s focused on actually getting things done. It's why we're so proud to have endorsed her and to consider ourselves part of her team. (Please consider contributing to her 100% grassroots campaign by clicking on the 2022 Senate thermometer below.)

Erica views abolishing the filibuster as a moral issue. "I will not be silent and skeptical about a tool that was used to protect people who were lynching Black men and Black women like my grandparents. I will not be silent and skeptical about a tool that was used to try to prevent my mom from the sacred act of casting her vote. I will not be silent and skeptical about a tool that is enabling attacks on my right to vote, that is condemning workers to starvation wages, that is keeping our roads unpaved, and our world on a path to climate catastrophe."

Now THAT is the energy that we need in the United States Senate, not more Joe Manchins and Kyrsten Sinemas. At the heart of Erica’s campaign is the belief that we need more representatives in Washingtin for whom policy is personal. The filibuster is one of the issues where it’s easy to see why that’s so important. "To support the filibuster is to not know what it means to live in a community that cannot afford inaction," Smith told me, "and that's consistently sold out in every compromise, that is abandoned and oppressed by a government we pay taxes to, in a country that we love."

As Biden’s Infrastructure Bill is increasingly diluted by the President’s devotion to bipartisanship, the urgency of the moment is reaching an all-time high. At this point, the filibuster is a massive obstacle to real change. Erica Smith’s spokesperson, Morris Katz:

"The reality is that a 60 vote majority is not within sight so if you don't support ending the Jim Crow filibuster, then whatever else you say you support is moot. In order to pass anything of substance, the filibuster needs to go. Silence is not acceptable and neither is skepticism when we're talking about voting rights, income inequality, and the climate crisis."

For the filibuster, to be or not to be is fast becoming the official barometer for progressivism in the 2022 Senate elections. You can very well claim you’re for universal healthcare, or expanding voting rights, or tackling climate change, but if you’re unwilling to abolish the filibuster, it just doesn’t seem like you mean it. Katz, once again: "It's dangerous and disingenuous to feign concern for the crises North Carolinians are facing and discuss potential solutions without first making it clear where you stand on the filibuster."

Maintaining a Democratic majority in both chambers is possible, but that majority will only matter if we rid ourselves of the filibuster. This issue ought to be right where the Smith campaign wants it: in the center of the conversation. "The voters of North Carolina deserve to know whether their next Senator will be a part of the solution, breaking the gridlock and ensuring that Congress acts on the bold mandate that the vast majority of Americans support, or if they will contribute to the problem, failing to abolish this tool of white supremacy," the campaign said in a widely circulated statement.

It’s clear to us that Jeff Jackson and Cheri Beasley are corporate puppets who will do everything they can to uphold the status quo and obstruct true progress.

Erica Smith, on the other hand, is proving that she is a part of the solution and EXACTLY what the U.S. Senate needs.