Stacey Abrams: Who Needs The Filibuster When You Can Have An Actual Democracy?

Elections

Made-up voter fraud is very different from actual mass shootings. Republicans are fine with politicizing the hell out of the issue and rushing through a Dixiecrat's sampler of voter suppression bills — 253 so far in 43 states. This is how Republicans respond when Black people saved the country from four more years of fascism.

Georgia is ground zero for Jim Crow-style laws restricting voting access. Republicans figure something's wrong after Biden carried the state and Democrats flipped both Senate seats. Voting rights activist and Time Lord Stacey Abrams has a plan for saving the American experiment, and it involves Congress. Yeah, we wish there was another way, but there's not.

From Mother Jones:

"Republicans are rolling back the clock on voting rights," she says. "And the only way to head that off is to invoke the elections clause of the Constitution, which allows the Congress — and the Congress alone — to set the time, place and manner of elections at a federal level."

Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, but Republicans enjoy (white) minority rule in the Senate, thanks to the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. Senate Republicans appreciate true democracy about as much as the ones currently passing “Stop Hitting Yourself" laws that restrict voting access. They're not going to help. Republicans are already making the rounds of rightwing media and explaining why war is peace, ignorance is strength, and voting is bad.


Senator Lindsey Graham has called HR 1, the For the People Act, “open borders for voting," because if you're too lazy or corrupt to engage a bill on its merits, you can just associate it with an entirely unrelated thing your constituents hate. That's quality Southern-fried demagoguery.

"The federal government is going to take over the voting systems in this country," he said. "There will be no checks and balance; no verification of who you are."

This is not that different from the reasons Southern segregationists gave for opposing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Graham's fellow Republican senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, will likely also vote against HR 1, while the spirit of John Lewis shakes his head.

Utah Senator Mike Lee took his HR 1 opposition to another level in Dante's inferno. "Everything about this bill is rotten to the core," he said. "This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself." Lee's beef is that the bill takes decisions from the states and grants them to the federal government, but that would just make Satan a federalist.

The GOP is clearly a lost cause, so we should push ahead with a simple majority vote on HR 1 and its companion bill, HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Unfortunately, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema are stalwart supporters of the filibuster. Abrams argues that the Senate should exclude voting rights legislation from the 60-vote threshold.

"The judicial appointment exception, the Cabinet appointment exception, the budget reconciliation exception, are all grounded in this idea that these are constitutionally prescribed responsibilities that should not be thwarted by minority imposition," she says. "And we should add to it the right to protect democracy. It is a foundational principle in our country. And it is an explicit role and responsibility accorded only to Congress in the elections clause in the Constitution."

This is a noble sentiment, but the problem is that while Abrams is intellectually honest, the GOP is not. Republicans shamelessly redefine whatever it is they claim they believe whenever it's convenient to advance their agenda, which is all that matters to them. Black people voting in no way advances their agenda. There aren't enough Candace Owens in swing states to make that worthwhile for them.

ABRAMS: I would say to Democrats who are hesitant that short of completely revising the filibuster, we have to make certain that a minority of people cannot be in power in the Senate, and therefore deny the basic principles of citizenship to millions of Americans

Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman tweeted: "Dems face huge choice: they can get rid of filibuster to pass HR 1 & John Lewis Voting Rights Act to stop GOP voter suppression or they can allow GOP to undermine democracy for next decade."

This is only a “choice" because too many Democrats named Manchin and Sinema won't accept what's at stake. Stacey Abrams has done all she can. Now it's their turn. The only tradition worth upholding is democracy.

[Mother Jones]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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