Senate Republicans recently voted against the proposal for a comprehensive democracy reform bill for debate. The result was no surprise. Nor the arguments put forward by the few Republicans who spoke out against the For the People Act. They echoed what the Senate Minority Leader Mitch mcconnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell Five issues that will define the months to midterm Key senators to watch on Democrats’ welfare spending bill Republicans look set to win midterm – unless they fight MORE (R-Ky.) Has said for the past 20 years while defending the status quo in Washington.
Some points of the process are legitimate – that the bill is sprawling and was built in a partisan fashion. But what Republicans haven’t noticed is that many of the bill’s reforms have strong bipartisan roots – from bringing greater transparency to political ads to strengthening politics. application of existing laws on campaign finance, to highlight black money and reform the overly partisan redistribution process. . These provisions and many more enjoy overwhelming public support across the political spectrum.
S.1 should not have been systematically obstructed. The American people deserve a debate. This vote should not be the end of the desperately needed conversation about how to collectively strengthen our democracy. This vote should be a start. That is, unless a majority of members of Congress think American democracy is fine-tuned right now. But we all know that’s not the case.
As lawmakers contemplate the next steps, it would be good to agree on some basic facts. Here is some.
Fact 1: Our democracy is long overdue for an upgrade at a time in history when democracies are losing ground globally due to authoritarianism.
Our country’s representatives have allowed our democracy to wither over the past 40 years. And while every measure of our civic health has gradually deteriorated – with the exception of voter turnout in the last presidential election – there has been no federal response. Lawmakers have repeatedly wasted opportunities to turn the tide and rebuild our systems and institutions.
Fact 2: Over the past six months, Republican-controlled state legislatures have engaged in a partisan takeover.
State lawmakers have seized upon the widely debunked myth that the 2020 elections were “stolen” to enact laws that restrict voting and place election administration in the hands of partisan politicians who could thwart the will of the people and overturn election results they disagree with. Not all of the provisions of these laws were bad for voters. Some have extended early voting and postal voting. But in many cases the goal has been clear: to create barriers to voting for partisan advantage. This was expressed a year ago by the former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci tells lies, threats are “rumored” MORE himself when asked about Democratic attempts to expand postal voting in the COVID-19 relief bill. “They had things, voting levels that if you ever agreed you would never have an elected Republican in this country again,” he joked.
The voting provisions of the For the People Act do not directly address some of these new state restrictions, but the bill expands voting by automatically registering eligible voters, expands early voting to all 50 states, and expands voting. advance and postal voting, among other provisions designed to protect the integrity of our elections and the right to vote. The Red and Blue states adopted some of these practices in the midst of the pandemic and the result was clear: greater participation from the two main parties.
Another way to take power is to control the redistribution. When it comes to gerrymandering both parties do it, it’s just that over the past decade the Republican Party has been much more effective than the Democrats. Most Americans know that having politicians who choose their constituents and not the other way around is a bad way to run a government, and they want that fixed. This is another example of another bipartite provision in the For the People Act.
Fact 3: Democrats built their bill in a partisan way.
So welcome to politics. This is not at all unusual – both parties do, especially when they have a majority. Then the conclusion of the deal occurs. For example, the agreement just announced on infrastructure. Senator Joe manchinJoe ManchinKlobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Democrats ‘frustration grows over stagnant voting rights bills Key senators to watch on Democrats’ social spending bill MORE (DW.Va.) has already introduced new ideas to S.1, including those that go against Democratic orthodoxy. The onus is now on Republicans to make policy suggestions, not just say no.
Fact 4: For decades Washington has been influenced by large sums of money on both sides of the aisle.
It’s an issue that helped propel Trump into the White House in 2016 and energized many Democrats. The American people feel alienated from their own government because of this – and with good reason. No campaign finance bill has been passed by Congress since 2002, when it was propelled by bipartisan support. The problem has only gotten worse since then, and everyone knows it, especially average Americans.
Fact 5: Despite claims by many that the federal government has no role to play in the management of federal elections, the Constitution says otherwise.
Article 1, section 4, explicitly states: “The times, places and methods of holding elections for senators and representatives are determined in each state by the legislature of that state; but Congress may at any time by law establish or modify such regulations, except as regards the places of selection of senators. It is this second clause, ignored by critics of political reform, that authorizes Congress to protect our elections and the right to vote of every citizen.
It is in this spirit – of promoting democracy – that most Americans hope members of Congress can do something. Manchin’s proposals show that there is a way forward.
The government collapse we’ve seen in recent years – culminating in an armed insurgency aimed at ending a constitutional process – is in many ways the result of decades of deferred maintenance.
Our system of self-government is like an aging bridge that can no longer safely accommodate daily traffic. Something must give. Hopefully it’s Congress, not the bridge.
Nick Penniman is the founder and CEO of Issue One, a multi-party political reform organization, and the author of “Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It”.