On the “Minority Protection” Argument and Filibuster Reform

Many are going to assert that doing away with the filibuster for nominees is a blow against minority protection in the process.  However, it has to be remembered and understood:  the very nature of the Senate as designed is already minority protection.  Since each state gets a co-equal number of seats in the chamber, the power of majority populations and sentiments are already diluted.  Even operating under basic absolute majority rule (i.e., 51 votes) is a already a body that is not a purely majoritarian one given that an absolute majority of the votes in the Senate may very well represent a minority of the population.

Indeed, that was one of the purposes of the Senate:  that the smaller states (as defined in population terms) would not lose all of their influence to the larger states.  As such, minority protection is baked into the institution.  It does not have to have a filibuster rule to protect minority interests.

More later, as time permits.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Mark Ivey says:


  2. Rafer Janders says:

    The 25 smallest states have, according to a quick and rough count, approximately 50 million people combined, or about one-sixth of the entire US population. However, those 16.6% of citizens get 50% of the votes in the Senate, giving them political power far disproportionate to their actual numbers.

    By contrast, the citizens of the five largest states number over 100 million, or almost one-third of the US population. But that 33.3% of the US population only gets 10% of the votes in the Senate.

  3. @Rafer Janders: That sounds about right. I had the number 18% in my head for the bottom half, but have not had time to confirm it as yet.

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As I said, I did only a fairly rough eyeball count, but overall it’s about 16-18% total of the population for the 25 least populated states.

    So even without the filibuster, the 25 smallest states representing 50 million people can balance or block the 25 largest states representing 250 million people. They have a 5-1 electoral advantage even in a pure “majority rules” Senate.