Alan Zendell, March 9, 2021
There was never any question about whether President Biden would be able to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, only whether the Republicans would participate in a bipartisan attempt to restart our economy and help millions of struggling Americans and small businesses. The Republicans are waging an intraparty war that will determine the future of their party. One might expect that under those conditions, a handful of moderate Republicans might have joined Democrats in passing a bill that has the support of more than three in four Americans, as they did when they cast a less popular impeachment vote.
But no. While a number were willing to vote to convict Donald Trump, the cause of their current civil war, they remain steadfast in their determination to blow up the national debt to further enrich the wealthy, but cut corners whenever legislation benefits everyone else. That’s extremely revealing. Republicans are willing to fight to the death over who controls the party, but they won’t break ranks on anything to do with the class warfare that began with The New Deal and becomes more intense as America evolves toward a nonwhite majority.
That’s especially important right now because the next major legislation deals with voting rights. The tsunami of new voter suppression legislation sweeping through Republican controlled states is the last line of defense for a party, that despite talking about having a big tent, has never expanded outward from its white working class base.
According to Wikipedia, the “For the People Act (also known as H.R 1) [would] expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.” H.R 1 is the acid test of whether Congress can still function in a bipartisan manner, and it is essential that it passes in time for states to enact the anti-gerrymandering provisions before the next election cycle. The House passed the bill in 2019 by a comfortable margin by the Democratic majority, but it was blocked from consideration in the Senate by then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Democratic majority in the House is much slimmer today, while Democrats now hold a razor-thin edge in the Senate. The essential features of H.R 1 (and its accompanying S 1 in the Senate) must pass with a bipartisan vote if we are ever to fix our broken election system. The fifty-fifty split in the Senate is one clear indication of how tilted the voting playing field currently is, as the fifty Democratic senators represent 41 million more people than the fifty Republicans, because every state has two senators regardless of its population. Thus, for example, each senator from Wyoming represents 286,000 people, while each senator from California represents 19,750,000, a ratio of seventy to one in leverage.
We can’t change the composition of the Senate without re-writing the Constitution, but we can assure that every American has an equal opportunity to have his or her vote counted. For the People would authorize same-day registration in every state. That would enable people working multiple jobs with little discretionary time to only have to show up at the polls once, and allow new residents in a state to vote as soon as they establish residency.
There is no rational, unbiased argument against this provision. Likewise, several others whose only purpose is to make it easier for every American to vote: automatic registration for every eligible state resident who is already contained in a state database such as motor vehicles; at least fifteen days of early voting; expanded opportunities for mail-in voting; declaring Election Day a federal holiday.
Equally important is the provision to require that states appoint independent commissions to redraw voting districts and end gerrymandering, the process by which millions of votes are rendered irrelevant. Gerrymandering distorts the representation of different population groups by party affiliation to favor the party in power in each state. Thus, for example, in a recent Wisconsin election, Democrats cast 61% of the votes but won only 49% of the seats in the legislature because Democratic voters were densely packed into fewer districts. The Supreme Court ruled that situations like this can only be changed by legislation.
The issue with respect to H.R 1 is straightforward. We can choose between a system that maximizes every citizen’s opportunity to vote and assures that every vote cast has equal weight, or we can retain a system that allows one party to suppress the power of voters in the opposition party. Shall we have partisan cheating or open free elections?