Friday, March 19, 2021

We Must Hold Republicans Accountable for Ignoring the Will of the People

A recent poll from Morning Consult reaffirmed what we've known for quite a while now: over 80 percent of Americans support requiring all gun purchasers to go through a background check. The bipartisan nature of that support is demonstrated by the fact that 77 percent of Republicans support universal background checks. 

Nevertheless, when the House voted last week on legislation to do just that,  Republicans almost universally voted against the measure. Due to the Democratic majority, the bill passed 227-203. But Republican obstruction will probably be strong enough in the Senate that it will fail to overcome a filibuster. 

Similarly, more than 70 percent of Americans support the Dream Act, which would grant citizenship to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. But when the House voted on such a measure this week, the vote broke down primarily on party lines, with the vast majority of Republicans in opposition. Here's what Nicholas Fandos wrote about the bill's prospects in the Senate.

While some Republicans there have pledged support for Dreamers in the past, their party is increasingly uniting behind a hard-line strategy to deny the president the votes he needs to make any new immigration law and use the worsening situation at the border as a political cudgel.

“There is no pathway for anything right now,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a key player in past bipartisan immigration pushes, said this week.
Of course, we saw the same scenario play out with the coronavirus relief bill that was recently passed. While it garnered major support from voters, Republicans opposed it unanimously. 

In the midst of all of this, it is infuriating to watch the conversation be dominated almost entirely by what Democrats plan to do about the filibuster. The only relief from that discussion comes when pundits suggest that Biden and the Democrats are destined to fail in passing their agenda. Almost no one is putting pressure on Republicans, who are consistently voting against the bipartisan will of the people. 

On Wednesday, newly-elected Senator Raphael Warnock gave his first speech on the Senate floor in support of voting rights. Steve Bennen told Rachel Maddow that it was the best he had ever heard. If you have twenty minutes, take a listen

In addressing the fact that Republicans will use the filibuster to block legislation to secure voting rights, Warnock said that, "It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in our society.” Boom!

Later that day Warnock sat down for an interview with Rachael Maddow. At the 0:43 mark, he responded to a question about how Democrats can move forward on voting rights, given Republican intransigence.

Voting rights is bigger than the filibuster, and whether we get rid of the filibuster or not, we have to pass voting rights. We have to give the people their own voice in their own democracy. So we will see what path that takes. 
It's interesting...folks ask me, "should you get rid of the filibuster or not?" It seems to me that the onus really is on those in the chamber who have not yet decided to support voting rights, because they could vote it up. They could vote for it—because what is at stake is the viability and the health and the credibility of our democracy.

Warnock is exactly right. It is beyond time for people in the media to start asking Republicans why they are opposed to voting rights. What is at stake is the viability of our democracy. That is primarily true when it comes to voter suppression. But it is also true when voters no longer have a voice in congress because Republicans pay no price for ignoring the will of the people on issue after issue.

Whether we're talking about gun safety reform, immigration, economic stimulus, or voting rights...the people are much more united than their representatives in Washington. Until Republicans are held accountable for ignoring their wishes, that will continue.   


  1. If you can't pick your voters, how can you expect to be elected?

    1. I can't match your /s today; well done comment to a very good article. Voting rights may be the 'win' of this point in the Biden administration. To let these states damage the democratic processes is to permit the reinstitution of Jim Crow in our times.

  2. To push through the issue posed in this article, requires that the US adopts a democratic form of government, where the representatives are responsible to the people that they represent. Even stripping out stuff like gerrymandering, vote stuffing and voter suppression, this isn't happening given the current makeup of the political system.

    Problem 1) The only chamber that is elected on anything remotely like democratic norms, the congress, is the least powerful of the branches of the government. It should have the whip hand, at least, in what is done by the state.

    Problem 2) The senate. It is, frankly, an anti-democratic institution as envisaged in the US constitution, because it a) not even remotely representative of the will of the people, and b) an institution designed openly to put a brake on any legislation passed in congress. It should be done away with (removing its power just leaves a very expensive talking shop)

    Problem 3) The president being both head of state and head of government. Ministries and their departments should be accountable to parliament (and ministers members of said parliament). As it currently stands the government is unaccountable.

    Problem 4) The courts, well this is a whole load of problems. First is the openly political nature of appointments. Who gets to be a national level judge shouldn't be at the whim of a single person, it should be decided upon by an independent panel of experts made up of serving judges, lawyers, non-lawyer legal experts who pick the best candidate available, not the one who'll vote a certain way. Also the supreme court has way too much latitude in deciding constitutionality. For example the Heller decision was repugnant in both law and morality and an argument that the constitution meant the exact opposite of what it clearly said. In a properly functioning legal system that ruling wouldn't have stood and anybody trying to give it would have found themselves laughed out of the legal profession.

    And finally problem the 5th) the constitution is an ossified and broken document written explicitly to keep a narrow 18th century oligarchy in power and slavery alive. Aside from the lack of a monarch, it basicly tries to replicate the system of government and power dynamics in place in England of it's day. It is a dead weight around the government of your country and needs to be scrapped. Problem is, it's too hard to change, by a country mile, thus making the rotten and failed system the only game in town unless a revolution happens.

    1. We've been able to pass significant amendments to the the past. However some are still more ideals and have not been fully implemented.
      We don't have a British style parliamentary system. As such, it really doesn't export very well. And at times, that does not work well for us. From Gingrich onwards, there was a pretty strong alignment of ideology with party, and the Republicans have been acting wholly in concert--like in a standard parliamentary system. That kills the Senate.
      Democrats need to run a 50 state strategy, and the national party needs to invest in local elections at every level. Only by building up the party every where can they compete in every state for senate seats.

    2. Oh, goodness. My dark side finds Nancy's post, wonderful as it is (and Warnock sure seems a natural leader), as too hopeful. But this is just idiotic. If we have to wait until America replaces its entire system of government, good luck. For that matter, if we did have a constitutional convention in the face of GOP voters and politicians, we'd probably end up with a fascist state with blacks and immigrants only the first and most bloody victims. Be careful what you wish for.

      But aside from its chances, is a parliamentary system really the cure-all? It sounds plausible, given the voter majority that Nancy highlights and the distortions of majority rule noted here. But in practice the United States got to something more or less democratic sooner than Britain or Europe. If one remembers the twentieth century, what comes to mind more than them as allies and, in the U.S., the New Deal? Today, while we (barely) survived Trump, parliamentary governments in the U.K. and Israel have been mired in awful conservatives for a long time now, and systems in Eastern Europe and Turkey are sliding into totalitarianism.

      It sounds plausible, too, in that Europe moved much further to social democracy. But could that be because it had a genuine labor movement, while reform under the New Deal and LBJ had to settle for top down? The difference there isn't easy to explain, but it's real. No doubt it turned in part on racism: as Nixon foresaw, labor could be manipulated on to define working class in damaging and unrealistic ways. And in part there are other aspects of American ideological dominance and the culture wars. I still remember labor beating up war protesters back when. That is not to blame workers, only to say that Europe and not us had a movement to act on behalf of them.

      As for the Supreme Court, there I'd count protection of the minority as a plus. Sure, it's not above politics, although that's not the same as complaining that it's not majoritarian. We had Plessy v. Ferguson along with Brown v. Board of Ed. But would anyone doubt that surrender to majority rule have got us desegretation, press freedoms, or abortion rights? And sure, they're under fire right now from Trump's appointees, who will rule for more than the rest of my life. But maybe if the commenter and his like back in 2016 had held Republicans accountable as Nancy wishes rather than pursue their non-negotiable demands, we'd have a future worth treasuring.


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