What this means is that the most important issue before the President, Congress and the country at this moment is voting rights. Absent the ability to conduct free and fair elections in which every eligible citizen can cast a ballot, democracy is doomed.
A growing number of concerned citizens seem to believe that vigorous political organizing—registration drives, making sure everyone has a valid voter ID, and getting every voter to the polls, can overcome the Republican effort to undermine the vote. They are mistaken. The reality is that the GOP tactics—essentially the legalization of cheating—work. Political organizing and voter activism cannot overcome them.
As the Republican Party views it, if it doesn’t cheat, it will never win an election for two reasons: (1) It is out of sync with the majority of voters, as evidenced by its abandoning even the pretense of putting forward a policy platform in 2020; and (2) Only 28 percent of voters identify as Republicans, a number that is steadily declining. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections.
Currently, the Republican Party’s only hope is minority rule. If it prevails in 2022, it will instantly morph into the tyranny of the minority. The party has no platform, no policies, and now that it has abandoned even lip service to responsible governing and become the Trump cult, no principles. For it, democracy is an existential threat.
Thus far, President Biden has been preoccupied with other issues: getting past the pandemic and promoting infrastructure. Both are worthy of attention, but not at the expense of the very political structure that made this nation the last best hope on Earth.
The time has come for him to take to heart the lessons of his predecessors who effectively used the bully pulpit that attaches to the presidency to get voting rights legislation through Congress.
That necessitates the whole or partial elimination of the filibuster. This was an artificial, undemocratic Senate construct that first arose in order to perpetuate Jim Crow laws in the South. Since its emergence, it has been used most often to defeat positive legislation that the vast majority of Americans favor.
The argument against dispensing with the filibuster—that once Republicans regain power in the Senate, they will exploit its disappearance to undo all the positive legislation that Democrats enacted—is irrelevant. If the filibuster remains and Republicans are allowed to destroy our suddenly fragile system, both Democrats and democracy will be historical footnotes.
If he does not want the history books to mark him as the man who presided over the United States’ descent into authoritarianism, President Biden needs to take a proactive role in saving democracy and the country.
August 7, 2021