Is it too little too late?
That’s the question that floated in the air after the moving and obviously heartfelt remarks by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on voting rights in Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.
This is the question members of the Biden base were asking themselves their boycott of the event in Georgia. It’s a question that has resonated on social media as progressives have expressed dismay that critical legislation designed to restore and protect voting rights is now likely to fail despite the president’s pledge. to fight for what he called “the threshold of freedom of democracy”.
And that is almost certainly the wrong question.
Voting rights in the United States have been under threat for years. Roberts’ Supreme Court even ruled that they no longer need to be protected like they once did in his notoriously bad head Shelby County v. Holder decision. This tribunal has given those who have money a greater role in our democracy than those who do not have it. United citizens decision. State legislatures, aided by the High Court, have resorted to gerrymandering to make fair elections less common.
The last US president actively tried to steal an election, and his party members have proposed more than 400 laws to make it harder for people to vote Democrats. As Biden and Harris both noted, some of Georgia’s new election laws are particularly egregious, making postal and drop-box voting more difficult and criminalizing bringing food. or water to people queuing to vote.
Biden noted that in 2006, 93 members of the United States Senate voted to extend the Voting Rights Act and that President George W. Bush proclaimed it. Bush like his father and Reagan and Ford and Nixon supported the legislation, as virtually all Republicans have for years. But since 2006, when the effects of right-wing donors to win state houses and race the courts have started to bear fruit, things have worsened. United citizens was decided in 2010. Shelby County was decided in 2013.
Today, as Biden pointed out, not a single Republican is even willing to vote to allow debate to continue on preserving the singular right upon which our entire system of government is based.
But it’s not, of course, just Republicans. Voting rights legislation could be passed if Democrats, who currently hold a majority in the Senate, voted together to create the kind of filibuster reform that would protect this key voting right. by simple majority. It is not such a far-fetched idea. This is, after all, how these measures were passed by the House of Representatives. And this is how the Constitution provided for such measures to be adopted by the Senate.
But some Democrats have vigorously opposed any form of systematic obstruction. They hid behind the outright lie that filibuster is a great Senate tradition (it is not – its regular use is a recent development and is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution) and a unfounded twist (arguing that systematic obstruction promotes bipartisanship when in fact it does not, often being used to impose the will of the minority on the majority). Maybe some believed these things at first, until they were debunked a thousand times over. Perhaps others saw filibuster as a way to shield Democrats from a possible Republican majority, fully familiar with the scorched earth tactics of Mitch McConnell and the modern GOP. But nothing prevents the GOP from changing the rules to suit them if they win back the majority and therefore this argument is also empty.
In addition, a narrow “exclusion” on systematic obstruction relating to the preservation of voting rights would be in line with other recent exclusions, such as those relating to judicial appointments and budget reconciliation. So why not support such a separation?
There is only one possible answer: they or those to whom they are indebted are perfectly comfortable with the idea, as Biden characterized it, “of turning the will of the voters into a mere suggestion.” . They, like the GOP, fear the will of the people in a country undergoing demographic change. Whether it comes from racism or from the cynical preservation of political or economic interest, the result is the same.
Biden correctly and without flinching described these people as being on the side of George Wallace, Bull Connor, and the racist thug faction of American history. But here’s the problem: They – Republicans and a select few Democrats – were like that before Biden and Harris came in. And Biden and Harris and their White House team knew it was extremely unlikely that they would ever change positions.
Moreover, they knew that if they prioritized voting reform and lost, that civil rights and voting activists, a vital part of the Democratic base, would be furious and that the divisions this provoked in the party could profoundly harm it … and so their chances of maintaining majorities in Congress which are in fact essential to the preservation of democracy, the confirmation of better judges and the passage of meaningful legislation in the future.
The problem is, the split in the Democratic Party would happen whenever this question finally arose and that is precisely what is happening now. And the worst is most likely in the store.
Joe Biden now says he supports filibuster reform, but Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are highly unlikely to do so and they have votes in the Senate and he doesn’t – a point he raised by referring to the “51 presidents” he had to deal with. with in the upper house of Congress. (See the sad fate of the Build Back Better package for proof.)
If even a Democrat argues that no meaningful voting rights legislation will be passed. And the president, because he’s president, will be blamed for it, even if the fault lies squarely with the GOP and the obstructionist Democrats who, for all intents and purposes, are arguing with them about it. And that will produce acrimony and divisions within the Democratic Party. And that could cause some people not to vote or work so hard for Democrats in November. And if the Democrats lose the House and possibly the Senate as well in November, the erosion of democracy in America will only accelerate.
While this sounds like the worst-case scenario, it’s actually one of the most likely cases right now. It will take real leadership not only from the president, but also voting rights, civil rights and other leaders within the Democratic Party to ensure that perfectly reasonable frustrations and understandable anger at the situation does not become an accelerator. which worsens the situation.
If the legislation on the right to vote does not pass, the road to the protection of democracy becomes much more difficult, but above all it depends on one thing: cohesion within the Democratic Party. Expressing criticism and debating strategies is inevitable and healthy. Blaming Biden for a crisis that began long before he took office and which he and Harris have actively fought at every stage of their careers is unfair. The same is true of blaming them for the actions of the GOP or for their inability to transform opponents of democracy into patriots overnight.
We are entering the territory of a circular firing squad with attacks on the President and the White House for allegedly doing “too little, too late.” Voting rights advocates targeting Biden are doing the job of the GOP and those against voting rights. Whatever our differences, only party unity gives us a chance to overcome them.
If what is being done to preserve democracy now is “too little too late” it is too little in the face of a massive and well-funded right-wing campaign to deprive Americans of our most basic right and it is too late because this campaign has been going on for years and years. The measures currently proposed, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, are of vital importance. The president and vice-president have gone squarely behind them, even though the likelihood of them failing is high. It is an act of courage for which they deserve to be commended.
But even if you don’t see it that way, we should try to focus not on who is to blame, but on what we can do. Passion and idealism can be great allies, but they become enemies when they take us away from what can actually be achieved.