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The weird rule that broke American politics



The filibuster started as an accident. Today it lets the losers rule Congress.

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The US Senate is supposed to pass laws. But today, it’s broken. And it’s broken because of something called the filibuster, which has been part of Senate tradition for over 200 years. But the filibuster came into being by accident. And today, some politicians are suggesting we should get rid of it entirely.

Further reading:

* My colleague Matt Yglesias does a great job breaking down the 2020 Democrats’ debate over the filibuster:

* Ezra Klein dispels some myths about the filibuster:

* The book “Politics of Principle?” from Sarah Binder and Steven Smith from the Brookings Institution, really helped me understand the Senate filibuster:

* The book “Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate” from Gregory Koger, a University of Miami political scientist, puts the filibuster in a broader context:

* Lastly, this article from the Stanford Law Review answered some basic questions about the Senate filibuster:

“Note: The headline for this video has been updated since publishing.
Previous headline: How the filibuster broke the US senate

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31 Comments

  1. Vox

    Hope everyone enjoys the video! Do filibusters undermine or support democracy? Let us know what you think in the comments!

    And if you want to help us make even more videos like this, the best way to do that is by becoming a Video Lab member: http://bit.ly/vox-video-membership.

  2. spam account

    Lol I'm doing a project on Aaron Burr right now saying why he was a huge impact on America. Well that totally helped me lol.

  3. hac198582

    funny how you dont talk about political affiliation till after the civil rights so you dont have to call out the dems for racism

  4. Eduardo Sánchez

    Most comments are from people who believes that "the majority is always right". New laws shouldn't be so easy to create, that's why there must be a big commitment from everyone willing to create new rules for society

  5. Baked Bread

    The senate is slow and clunky by design. The framers wanted the senate to be a slow, deliberative body populated by old men that would mull over ideas and carefully consider the consequences, hence the 6 year terms (vs 2 in the house), senators being appointed by the states rather than voted in (to avoid campaign pressures) and the senatorial confirmation being required for intl treaties and court appointments (since these things have very long term consequences reps might not care about)

  6. Canine University 101

    This is why we need a 3rd party and until that happens this country will be under the impressive rule of 2 parties who gain nothing by helping us out but instead gain only in showing the absurdities of the other party. Black white latino etc we all are under a regime that is centered around the few politicians and businessman lucky enough to have billions or lucky enough to be voted to control policy.

  7. Canine University 101

    I thought a filibuster was when a Senator spoke for hours on hours until the time frame to pass the specific bill is gone? I assume I'm confusing another term based off this video

  8. joey .k

    I think the filibuster should be ended it would be better for both parties because whoever wins the majority should be able to pass their laws

  9. _ztoc

    Good video. However:
    “What does it mean to be a democracy”

    We aren’t one. We are a constitutional republic. And it’s best that way.

    Other than that, once again, good video.

  10. Michael Ricks-Aherne

    Well, the point of the filibuster is to incentivize compromise. A country that swings wildly from "ALL GUNS BANNED" to "EVERYONE GETS A GUN" every 4 years is not a good solution either. We need some measure of stability for the economy to function.

    A change must happen, but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

    The filibuster in the Senate is like a timeout in football. You don't want teams abusing it, so you limit its use. That way, we don't swing wildly every election, but we do allow government to function.

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