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Gut Check Time on Voting Rights

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

If Democrats hope to stave off a massive Republican takeover of Congress in the 2022 Congressional elections, they must do whatever it takes to enact key voting rights legislation that so far has been blocked by...wait for it...the GOP.

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The Donald Trump Republican Party in state after state is changing rules around voting in a deliberate effort to reduce turnout of voters they deem likely to support Democratic candidates. It is a cynical, nasty attack on our democracy and one that could have long lasting impact on America's future.

With turncoat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) effectively blocking President Biden's Build Back Better domestic spending package, many Democrats are reeling and significant numbers are even retiring from Congress. Polls show that many Democratic voters are disappointed with the results so far, and Republicans are gloating at Biden's falling support numbers, predicting a massive red wave next November.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), one of the most vulnerable House Democrats, blasted Manchin’s decision to oppose Build Back Better.

“We cannot act like this moment is the end," she said. "Children, families, and the future of our planet are counting on us. In the weeks and months ahead, I will keep working to deliver these meaningful investments to the people of Virginia,” Spanberger said, citing the legislation’s child tax credit, and efforts to combat climate change and lower prescription drug costs.

If Democrats do not succeed in restoring at least key components of Build Back Better and keep at least some of their 2020 campaign promises to voters, their only chance of turning aside this red tide will be what they should do anyway -- pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Those bills would turn aside many of the state legislative actions intended to give Republicans the edge, all at the behest of Trump.

Time is getting short, warns NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who pointed out that state legislatures will begin returning to session in January, potentially expanding obstacles to voter access and drawing partisan redistricting congressional maps that would be outlawed under the Democratic legislation.

“This is about protecting our nation, our Constitution,” Johnson said.

End the Filibuster

But to pass that legislation, Democrats must deal with the archaic filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to pass anything of consequence. Democrats currently have a 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaker. Republicans are virtually united in opposing both bills.

Biden has been pussyfooting around on the filibuster and Manchin has flatly said he would not support its elimination. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)) has said lowering the 60 vote threshold for passing legislation would harm the Senate, not improve it.

And so nothing is happening and minority voters, a majority of whom supported Biden and generally back Democrats, are getting tired of inaction.

What would happen in November if large numbers of African American voters simply say they're fed up and stay home? Any chance that Democrats might have to hold their minuscule majorities in Congress would be gone.

Republicans Gloating

And so, the Republicans are gloating with their leaders predicting a massive victory.

They have launched a fusillade of attacks over the surge in Covid 19 cases, rising inflation, the bloody Afghanistan withdrawal and more. Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted to the low 40s, with the bottom likely still to come.

“I've been telling Democrats, especially Democrats in targeted seats, enjoy the holidays, and you got a decision to make: retire or lose next fall,” Rep.Tom Emmer (R-MN.), the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Hill.

Emmer claimed that as many as 70 Democrats could lose their seats in a possible wave, warning “in this environment, no Democrat is safe.”

Meanwhile, the composition of the Republicans in Congress, especially the House of Representatives, could be especially nasty. Trump backers like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), which The Washington Post dubs the "MAGA Squad", are targeting incumbent GOP lawmakers they deem to be insufficiently conservative, replacing them with Trump loyalists.

One such candidate, former Army Green Beret Joe Kent is challenging Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), who voted to impeach Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Should Kent win, he wants to force votes on articles of impeachment against Biden and a full congressional inquiry into the 2020 presidential election, which he claims was stolen from Trump.

“A lot of it will be shaming Republicans,” Kent said. “I need to be going after the people in the Republican Party who want to go back to go-along-to-get-along. It’s put up or shut up.”

And so, it is gut check time for Democrats. It's time to pass those voting rights bills without further delay -- if only to prevent the red scourge GOP leaders now predict. Never mind that it's the right thing to do for our nation.

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