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Murib: Why it’s time for the filibuster to go

Opinion: Shad Murib

Colorado is a special place — we all know this. We’re a strong competitor for “Least Humble” among 49 lesser states that make up the Sort-Of-United States of America. But isn’t that what makes us so special?

We’re a national leader for a lot of reasons: the best beer, the worst NFL coaching staff and Pueblo green chile. But perhaps what we should be most proud of is that we’ve had some of the nation’s best voting laws since 2013. Every voter in our state gets a ballot in the mail that can be dropped off or mailed back; one can register to vote in that year’s election right up until polls close; we audit our elections for fairness and accuracy; and we’ve made it easier than ever for tribal members to participate in elections.

Every state deserves these rights, and that’s why it’s time for the filibuster to go.

In 2021 alone, 19 states have passed over 30 new laws to restrict the right to vote, all states that Donald Trump lost or questioned electoral results in. This voter suppression is the policy outcome of “The Big Lie,” the false theory that President Biden’s election was illegitimate. Sadly, Colorado is not immune, with U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, Mesa County Clerk & Recorder Tina Peters, State Rep. Ron Hanks, and a host of local officials and leaders acting as willful combatants in this war on voting rights.

This is despite people like Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams calling hooey on “The Big Lie.” Unfortunately, Buck and Williams are increasingly the minority in a Republican Party that embraces division, obstruction and handouts to big corporations.

The good news is that Congress can take a stand against these voting restrictions and pass a sweeping new voting rights law that would preempt some of the most common ways that scared politicians are protecting themselves from their voters. But the United States Senate is being stalled from doing this by West Virginia Democrat and luxury-car-driving coal baron Joe Manchin, who opposes eliminating the filibuster and passing the bill with a simple majority. Manchin claims he can get 10 Republicans to risk Trump’s wrath and meet the filibuster’s 60 vote threshold to pass the bill.

The filibuster was created during the post-Civil War Reconstruction as a way to maintain white supremacy by the minority party. But if that’s not enough of a reason to compel the Senate to put an end to this relic, then let their own electoral prospects guide them. A government that administers safe and fair elections isn’t guaranteed, as Trump’s near-successful coup has shown. Should he and his ilk seize power again, count on federal legislation to rig the game to elect America’s worst people being at the top of the list.

I served in the United States Senate as state director for America’s favorite brewer-turned-patriot, John Hickenlooper (take that, Sam Adams), the banjo-playing former governor who signed Colorado’s voting system into law. I loved that job because it enabled me to elevate disenfranchised voices in our government, but I left it knowing an undeniable truth about the Senate: we cannot expect bipartisanship on this issue from a Republican Party that wins when it’s harder for people to vote.

Across the country, corrupted politicians are giving free reign to polluters to have their way with our land, water and air. Anti-choice zealots are waging war against women. Our kids are being relentlessly gunned down in their schools. The wealthiest billionaires among us are getting away with paying as little taxes as possible while they also launch themselves into space on private shuttles and then unfortunately return.

We cannot make progress on fixing any of these depressing norms of American life if voting isn’t as safe and guaranteed everywhere as it is in Colorado.

One might argue that Majority-Leader-in-waiting Mitch McConnell could never get 60 votes to pass such egregious legislation, and that we need to keep the filibuster to ensure that it never happens. To that, I’ll remind you that this is the same politician that forbade Barack Obama his final Supreme Court nominee in an election year to “let the people decide” and then confirmed Donald Trump’s final Supreme Court nominee six days prior to Election Day four years later. McConnell will end the filibuster without any hesitation or worry for intellectual consistency. Democrats will look foolish for not doing it first, and then the country will suffer the consequences.

The worst outcome of ending the filibuster is that maybe more states will start to look a little more like Colorado and we’ll be a little less unique. But, hey, maybe that will keep folks from moving here?

Shad Murib is former state director for U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and longtime strategist in Colorado, including for Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Senate Democrats. He splits his time between Denver and Eagle counties.

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