One, two, three to keep us free
Elections. Seems like we just got done voting, now it’s time to do it again. On May 18th, Philadelphians will be choosing our next District Attorney. I bet a lot of readers expect this month’s column would cover police brutality or the corrupt cash bail system. Get everyone fired up about criminal justice reform. Sorry, folks. There’s an even dirtier system at work, and it’s coming for all of us.
As I type this, Republicans in Arizona are auditing the 2020 election results – not to realistically overturn Biden’s win, but just to sow doubt with voters, to spread their Big Lie. Politicians know that Americans on the whole favor progressive policies: healthcare, fair wages, renewable energy, gun control, assistance for small business, criminal justice reform, and subsidies to make college more accessible for all. Instead of changing their policies to meet the needs of the nation, a small sect of the GOP has radicalized a campaign of fear and suppression to subvert the will of the people.
And it’s working. This year, more than 360 new voter restriction bills have been proposed in 47 states to “fix” elections that weren’t broken. If we don’t act – and soon — we’ll be legislated out of our own government. There’s no time to waste!
Where do we start? Three things MUST happen before the 2022 election to stop Republicans from irreversibly rigging the system.
1. Protect the Vote. We need federal protections for voting rights! More transparency, more oversight. Better access. This January, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1, the “For the People” act – which addresses all these issues and more. Too bad the Senate has vowed to block it.
2. Kill the Filibuster. So fuck em — we can just go around em to pass H.R. 1 right? They’ve got 50 seats, we’ve got 50 seats and Kamala’s the tie-breaker, right? Wrong. The way the rules are written, the Senate minority can threaten to block legislation unless a 3/5ths majority is reached which means 10 Republicans would need to act against party lines – fat chance, in this Party of Trump.
This anti-democratic rule, of course, is the filibuster and we need to strike that down or at least reform it so it can’t threaten our basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There’s nothing sacred about the filibuster – it’s not even in the Constitution.
For 230 years, our government passed laws through simple majority. Then Civil Rights happened, and ever since both parties have been shutting down each other’s bills, regardless of popular opinion. We need to fix this, and then pass H.R.1 to protect our democracy. Because otherwise, laws are being written that will allow a state’s legislature to overturn their citizen’s legal votes.
And yet, Republicans insist the real crime is federal election reform, which would stop states from creating their own “white people” loopholes. Already, the GOP has declared H.R.1 unconstitutional, so even if it passes it’s likely to get shut down by the Supreme Court, where conservatives dominate 6-3. Ah, but not if we add more justices…
3. Expand the Supreme Court. Let’s talk about court packing. Remember when the Republicans refused to even consider Obama’s Supreme Court justice nomination (Merrick Garland) during an election year? That changed the number of justices from 9 to 8 for the whole year. Once a Republican was in office again, they raised that number back up to nine. See, that’s court packing.
It gets better. Despite their “rule” about election years, these same Republicans voted to confirm Trump’s pick, Amy Coney Barrett, while the 2020 election was already underway. The hypocrisy is breath-taking, isn’t it? Folks, we are on a dangerous path, if we allow these brazen power grabs to stand. We cannot be squeamish about fixing it.
A bipartisan commission is investigating the possibility of extending the Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices. It’s a long shot, but without a balanced court, the system’s too easily rigged. Extending the court is the third gain we’ve got to make to save our democracy.
All three elements I’ve described here will be a fight. Every single element is non-negotiable. One, two, three. It’s the bare minimum needed to level the playing field – and place our government firmly at the service of its people.
Can we do it? If we don’t, it’s not going to matter how we vote or what we believe in, when the system is gamed against us. See you at the polls.
Agree? Disagree? Leave your comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the links in this article for deeper dives into the issues.
*BONUS: ACTION STEPS FOR CONCERNED CITIZENS*
Senator Pat Toomey needs to hear from all of us in Pennsylvania that we’re counting on him to pass the For the People Act — and need his support to fix the filibuster. Email him from his website or call 202-224-4254 (you can also hit him up on Facebook). Send him this link if you can’t think of anything to say!
Or use the handy form letter at CommonCause.org — it’s full of bullet points, and easy to edit. While you’re there, fill in your info to automatically send your message to five Philly newspapers for editorial publication.