'Defeatism by any other name': Journalist warns Democrats aren’t fighting hard enough for voting rights
Democrats are furious over the abundance of voter suppression bills being passed or proposed by Republicans in state legislatures all over the United States, including President Joe Biden — who slammed a new Georgia law, the so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021, as "Jim Crow in the 21st Century" and "an atrocity." And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in March, warned that the U.S. will be facing "autocracy" if "these vicious and often racist actions" are not stopped. But journalist Luke Savage, in an article published by The Atlantic on May 24, argues that Democrats, for all their angry rhetoric, aren't doing enough to combat the war on voting rights being waged by Republicans.
Savage, a staff writer for the democratic socialist website Jacobin, writes, "If you've followed recent Democratic messaging, you'll have heard that American democracy is under serious attack by the Republican Party, representing an existential threat to the country. If you've followed Democratic lawmaking, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the threat is actually a rather piddling one. The disconnect, in this case, isn't attributable to Democratic embellishment, but to inexcusable complacency."
Democrats have proposed two voting rights bills: the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and House Resolution 1, a.k.a. the For the People Act. Biden has said that he will sign both bills into law if they make it to his desk. But the For the People Act, which has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate — where it would need to get at least 60 votes under the rules of the filibuster."
Savage agrees with Democrats that Republicans are waging an all-out war on voting rights, but he complains that they aren't fighting aggressively enough to get the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and HR 1 to Biden's desk so that he can sign them into law.
Savage laments, "Neither currently seems likely to become law…. Rhetoric about autocracy notwithstanding, some liberal lawmakers are quietly threatened by aspects of the legislation.… Sen. Joe Manchin, meanwhile, has reiterated his opposition to HR 1 on the deeply spurious grounds that any prospective voting-rights legislation ought to pass with bipartisan support."
According to Savage, Democrats must do whatever it takes to get the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act signed into law — and that includes abolishing the filibuster.
"Although Biden has mused about the idea of reforming the filibuster," Savage explains, "he has ruled out its elimination. Manchin, predictably enough, is resoundingly allergic to the idea of change, while his fellow conservative Democrat, (Sen.) Kyrsten Sinema, ironically stated her emphatic support for HR 1 within days of dismissing filibuster reform in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Schumer, for his part, says that "everything is on the table" when it comes to passing voting rights legislation, and he has, like Biden, made some noise about at least modifying the filibuster."
Democrats, Savage adds, lack a sense of urgency when it comes to voting rights.
"Even with the filibuster removed or substantially modified, HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would still face barriers to becoming law," Savage writes. "But to simply accept these barriers is nonsensical — the product of a fraudulent and conservative 'realism' that is really defeatism by any other name. What, after all, is more important: the death of democracy, or the preservation of a Senate tradition that has been leveraged for decades to protect conservative minority rule?"
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