Advancing a Free Society

The Filibuster and Supermajorities

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Although the American Constitution does not provide for the filibuster, the founders of this country were very much concerned about protecting the rights of minorities. The checks and balances between the Congress, President, and Judiciary built into the Constitution were designed to make it difficult to pass legislation that infringed on the rights of important minorities. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to solidify this protection.

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in their essays in the superb Federalist Papers argued for the Constitution against a skeptical New York public. They recognized the necessity of having a constitution that protected minorities from “ephemeral” majorities, and they claimed the separation of powers, and other aspects of the Constitution, would succeed in protecting most minorities. The founding fathers were not believers in a naïve form of democracy where simple majorities should always have their way.

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