Are Voting Rights Really Being Challenged?
Based on the rhetoric emanating from the mouth of the President of the United States, one might conclude that the number of voters last election day was at an all-time low due to state regulations obstructing voters’ access to the ballot. In fact, turnout was at a record high in 2020 and Mr. Biden was the beneficiary thereof. He is claiming that new state laws will prevent that from happening again. But, is there really an emergency in the country with regard to voting rights because state legislatures are passing bills restricting mail-in ballots and Sunday voting? And by the way, is picture ID verification of identity to vote all that bad an idea anyway? And why should the doling out of food and water even be a voting issue?
While these new laws seem to be aimed at decreasing the voting numbers of traditionally Democratic voters, they probably won’t work. As a friend recently pointed out, all these laws do is make those they aim to restrict more determined than ever to vote and they do. See Georgia in 2020.
Couple that with the need to upend Senate filibuster rules to pass federal voting rights legislation (unlikely to happen) and witness what eliminating the filibuster did for Mr. Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court (none of the three garnered 60 votes) and you have the makings of yet another disaster in the Congress. That need for 60 votes to pass legislation is in place to drive that legislation to middle-of-the-road compromise and tamp down extremism. What the Democrats call obstructionism on the part of Republicans who won’t negotiate on bills will be the Democrats’ way of life after the 2022 election if (or when) they are in the minority in the Senate once again.
I actually don’t particularly like the filibuster rule, but I also don’t like every bill being a partisan fight especially when the Senate can pass good legislation like the infrastructure bill along bipartisan lines. I don’t like the constant threat of reconciliation to become business as usual in the upper chamber.
Mr. Schumer ought to get his caucus to focus on meaningful legislation (e.g., the good parts of the Build Back Better Bill like mandatory pre-K education) and stop the influence of the extreme progressive wing of his party on the course of legislative action.
The country is in need of work and that work could come from the Congress. But if the leadership of both parties in both houses is going to continue to squabble over every single issue and cease to work together on anything, perhaps it is best that the Congress stays paralyzed and allows the states to figure out what is best for their own citizens and allow the state legislatures and governors to pick up the burden Congress seems all too ready to drop.
If the President of the United States wants some legislation passed, he is going to have to do some better negotiating with the other party or, more likely, find himself with almost nothing to show for his four years in office. And it will be only four years. Biden is heading into Jimmy Carter territory. He was when he headed to Georgia and he was when he advocated changing Senate rules. Be careful what you wish for Mr. President. If 50 votes in the Senate becomes the norm for passed legislation, we will have more chaos than we have now and it will be a constant see-sawing of laws as subsequent majorities shift between parties.
The Congress and the country are in desperate need of real leadership. I just don’t see it on the horizon.