The memory of the Republican party’s claim that the 2020 election results were fraudulent are vivid to most people right now. The January 6th insurrection seemed to many like as low as the Republicans, white supremacists, xenophobes, and racists were going to sink, but in the wake of the failed coup, they immediately took a new path to illegal destruction of the United States’ democratic system. Following the contested results of the election, as most of us are aware, Republicans introduced over 350 voter suppression bills in 47 states, as reported by the Brennan Center for Justice. The bills include provisions like strict requirements on IDs, and other restrictions that mostly target low-income and people of color. It has been called Neo-Jim Crow, among other things, and is another outright attack on the U.S. democracy by the Republican party.
The fight against these bills has been largely led by Stacey Abrams, whose work to flip Georgia blue was one of the most noticeable successes of the Democratic party in the 2020 election. Without her tireless work, it is fairly clear that the majority that Biden/Harris now hold in the Senate would not have happened, and their entire administration would be caught in the unmanageable gridlock that characterizes politics in Washington.
The fight against voter suppression bills has been taken up by the House of Representatives, who have passed House Resolution 1, which would be the most comprehensive expansion of voting rights since the 60’s. The bill passed in the House with unanimous Republican opposition, and faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass due to the filibuster. What Democrats do now will largely determine the fate of elections in the country, as the voter suppression will systematically influence election outcomes in favor of the Republican party.
What can Democrats do?
There is little disagreement that the consequences of these voter suppression efforts will be disastrous for the Democratic party if they are passed and go into effect. Losing control of Congress and the White House will be almost inevitable due to the impact on the young, low-income, and racially diverse voters who form a large part of the democratic base. The need to enact the voter protection acts could not be more urgent.
The Democrats have basically one choice: to end the filibuster to pass these laws. There is ongoing concern about the impact of ending the filibuster to the political situation in Washington, but to be realistic, with the inevitable majority that the Republicans will establish with these laws, they will do it themselves to serve their own interests if the Democrats do not act to protect voter rights and that will further entrench their power if they get the majority they are sure to win should House Resolution 1 and other voter rights acts not pass.
The objection that the filibuster protects balance is moot because the Republicans are clearly committed to maintaining power and will go to any lengths to do so. They will most likely immediately end the filibuster as soon as they regain control of the Senate, and the Democrats — and democracy — will face an unspeakably difficult battle as a result.
There are two Democratic Senators who have claimed that they want to protect bipartisan options by keeping the filibuster, baffling to say the least when Republicans have demonstrated that they are willing to curtail voting and attack the foundation of fair play in our country. Joe Manchin III wrote an editorial in the Washington Post clearly stating his position that he is against ending the filibuster, but his argument fails to take into account that his advocacy for bipartisanship is not shared by the Republicans, and while I agree with his logic in an ideal world, there is an urgency to act to protect voting rights now that is one of the greatest crises our democracy has ever faced. Kyrsten Sinema, the other Democrat protecting the filibuster, is most likely disenfranchising her base in support of the filibuster. The filibuster has been one of the largest tools used to destroy civil rights in this country, and in Sinema’s home state of Arizona, this will most likely mean she’ll lose her next election.
Defense of the filibuster is ideally logical, but practically, it is misguided. The immoral and unethical actions on the part of the Republican party, to deny voter rights, leaves the Democrats little choice but to act to end the filibuster. It will probably be ended by a Republican majority either way if Democrats don’t act now. Let’s all pray the Democrats are willing to take bold steps to secure democracy, just as the Republicans are taking bold steps to destroy it.