Will Democracy Survive the Filibuster?

Reform Is Essential

Credit: Dave Whamond, Canada, PoliticalCartoons.com

Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized … Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.” —Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va)

While Senator Manchin’s premise is correct his conclusions, in a recent op-ed, go horribly wrong. He will neither vote for the For the People Act (S1), or support filibuster reform, needed to pass the bill. In a 50-50 divided Senate, that dooms the bill. It will fall victim to the inevitable Republican filibuster; which Mitch McConnell had no problem reforming when the Republicans used it to stack the Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority.

More than 400 bills restricting voting have been introduced, by state Republican legislators, in 47 states. All of these are aimed at suppressing the minority votes that gave the White House, Senate, and House to the Democrats in 2020. S1 is the political antidote to those bills. It would: facilitate registering to vote, roll back voter ID requirements, require states to provide online and same-day voter registration, mandate that states hold 15 days of early voting, allow voters to return ballots to conveniently placed drop boxes, and increase transparency in U.S. campaign finance laws by requiring “dark money” groups to disclose political donations.

Senator Manchin’s longing for bipartisan cooperation is a wish. Cooperation between Democrats and Republicans ceased to exist when Barrack Obama was elected president. In the real world, of Trumpism, there will never be 10 Senate Republicans who vote with the Democrats (assuming all 50 Democrats hold together) to overcome a filibuster. Think about it, if only six Republican senators voted for the January 6th bipartisan Commission, how in a world where 147 lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the day of the January 6th insurrection, and only six Republican senators voted for the creation of an independent, bipartisan January 6th Commission, is Senator Manchin’s fantasy of bipartisan cooperation ever going to happen?

Sixty-seven percent of likely voters support the For the People Act (56 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of Democrats, and 68 percent of Independents). To date, the institutional Democratic response to the Republican’s attack on democracy has been inept; there has been no campaign aimed at galvanizing support for both S1 and the filibuster reform needed to pass it. Chuck Schumer’s bringing S1 up for a vote, to put senators on the record, is not effective advocacy. This is business as usual. The media will comment on the vote, the Republicans will filibuster, and nothing will change. It’s going to be up to each of us to carry out this campaign. The Poor People’s Campaign demonstration, in West Virginia, against Senator Manchin’s opposition to S1 was a good beginning. However, it’s going to take all of us to make this happen. Here’s how we do it.

Make phone calls and send emails to senators. Use the internet. Put up window and lawn signs. Enlist friends to join the campaign.

Politics in large part is image and perception. If thousands of us begin calling and emailing Senator Manchin (and Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, who also opposes filibuster reform) things will happen. It doesn’t matter that you’re not a constituent. Political offices log and record all phone calls and make sure their elected officials know about the calls. The phone number that will connect you to Senate offices is (202) 224-3121.

Don’t stop with phone calls. Send emails. Get on Facebook. Tweet. Make cyber noise. Put signs in your windows, and on your lawns; people read them. If enough of us do this the media will pick it up and we will have launched a citizen’s campaign to save our democracy.

Here are the talking points for the campaign: (1) democracy is under attack from Republican state legislative bills; (2) the For the People Act can counter the voter suppression bills; (3) a 60 vote filibuster means the For the People Act will not be passed by the senate; (4) the filibuster does not have to be abolished; (5) protect democracy by reducing the number of senators needed to overcome the filibuster to 55, and (6) make senators who filibuster rise and talk, like they had to do when the filibuster was originally created.

It’s going to be up to each of us who cherish democracy to save it.


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