[Audio version here.]
After Democrats indulged the bipartisan fantasies of Senators Manchin and Sinema for nearly a year, the moment of truth has finally arrived. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will schedule a vote to create a carveout to the filibuster rule to allow for a vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act by January 17, 2022—Martin Luther King Day. It is nearly certain that Senators Manchin and Sinema will make disingenuous arguments about the sacrosanct nature of the filibuster that is allegedly indispensable to operation of the Senate. Of course, the Senate created a carve-out for the filibuster only three weeks ago to allow Democrats to increase the debt limit on a party line vote of 50-49. After the Senate created the filibuster carve-out for the debt limit, Senator Raphael Warnock took to the Senate floor to make the obvious comparison to voting rights. In this compelling video, Senator Warnock put the issue to his Democratic colleagues as a stark choice:
We could not imagine changing the [Senate] rules. Until last week, we did exactly that [to raise the debt limit]. . . . This is a step we haven’t been able to take to save our broken democracy [but] we changed the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States government. We’ve decided we must do it for the economy, but not for our democracy. . . . How do we in good conscience justify doing one but not the other?
The long delay in creating a carve-out to the filibuster has hurt President Biden. Some Democrats have faulted Biden for the lack of progress on voting rights legislation. On Martin Luther King Day, it will become apparent that the lack of progress is due to the intransigence of Manchin and Sinema. Or not. They can rise to the occasion and (for once) put the interests of the American people above an arcane and tortured rule that has long outlived its original purpose. The moment of truth has arrived. If they refuse to support a carveout, we will have a clearer view of the political path we must take to ensure that the Senate supports filibuster reform after the Senate elections in 2022 and 2024.
Please help persuade your U.S. Senator to support a carve-out for voting rights reform legislation. Contact information for your Senators and suggested talking point can be found at Jessica Craven’s “Chop Wood, Carry Water 1/3.”
Holding the supporters of the January 6th insurrection accountable.
As we approach the first anniversary of the triumph of democracy on January 6th, the media is filling with dire warnings about the end of democracy. Usually, I have little patience for doomsaying, but I am going to make a big exception for an op-ed by Professor Laurence Tribe in The Guardian, “The risk of a coup in the next US election is greater now than it ever was under Trump.” As you would expect from the nation’s preeminent law professor and constitutional scholar, Professor Tribe’s arguments are rooted in evidence—something that is frequently missing in other such articles. But here is the real reason to read Professor Tribe’s article—he provides specific steps that we should take to avert the possibility of another coup attempt by Trump. After laying out his case, Professor Tribe asks, “So what is to be done?” Here (in abbreviated form) are his prescriptions:
We must resist state-level attempts to make voting more difficult.
We must use boycotts and grassroots political organizing to oppose the replacement of honest with corrupt election officials and the enactment of anti-democratic state laws.
We must encourage the January 6th committee to complete its work thoroughly but quickly, including holding public hearings and . . . making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice
We must fight back against suggestions that the justice department’s criminal investigations of the highest-ranking public officials should await any such criminal referrals from the committee.
We must redouble our determination to hold criminally accountable, and potentially disqualify from ever again holding public office in the United States, everyone involved in the obscene trashing of constitutional democracy.
We must publicly repudiate whatever misguided notions have led the Biden administration’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, to exercise extraordinary restraint in the pursuit of such full accountability, effectively placing the highest officeholders above the law.
That is a great list! Most of the items demand that we bring public pressure on President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland. As one of the nation’s most respected and trusted constitutional scholars, Professor Tribe occupies a unique vantage from which he can apply public pressure on the administration. And he has been making the most of his high ground. He has been hammering Garland on Twitter and in commentary in the NYTimes, MSNBC, CNN, the Guardian, and other outlets. He is one of the handful of people I follow on Twitter: @tribelaw.
We should follow Professor Tribe’s example. We need to fill media outlets and social media with calls for action from Merrick Garland. Last week, I suggested that readers write “letters to editor” of local and national newspapers. Several readers have done so—and have had their letters published. For example, reader Al Blake wrote a letter to the Miami Herald reminding readers of that newspaper of two Florida representatives who voted to overturn the 2020 election results. Blake wrote that voters should, “Remember their names” when the members of the Sedition Caucus are up for reelection in 2022.
More of us need to urge accountability for the coup plotters and enablers. One reader recommended two resources for citizens who want to make their voices heard in the press. Per the reader:
I’ve found it important to search out resources from groups that have researched what phrasing resonates best with the most people. I thought it might be helpful to share two of them with you and that, perhaps, you might want to share a bit about them with your readers. They are:
ISRC: Freedom Rising; Offers webinars every two weeks, and follows up the next day with a helpful slide deck and other resources.
Words That Win; Offers researched based webinars and resources on a more occasional basis. Upcoming virtual webinars here.
Material from both groups has provided me with helpful phrasing for letters on many important topics. Their material also provides important guidance for social media posts.
So, sharpen those pencils and warm up your keyboard to make your voices heard. And while we are at it, let’s not forget the corporate funders of the Sedition Caucus. You will recall that immediately after the January 6th insurrection, hundreds of corporations promised to suspend financial support for members of Congress who voted to overturn the election. Sadly, about 50% of those corporations have broken their promises and have donated significant sums to the Sedition Caucus. The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has issued a detailed report that identifies corporations that are currently funding members of the Sedition Caucus. See “The Corporate Insurrection: How companies have broken promises and funded seditionists.”
It is likely that your cell phone carrier or cable provider is on the list. Check it out, and make your voices heard by writing / calling corporations you do business with and let them know how you feel about their support for traitors to the Constitution. Also consider making a donation to CREW while you are at it. CREW is engaged in a year-round fight to hold politicians and corporations accountable for ethical breaches. Someone needs to do it, and CREW is leading the way.
I have made a pitch over the last two weeks that we must proclaim January 6th as day on which democracy prevailed. If we do not do so, others will fill the void with conspiracies and disinformation and false grievances. I hope everyone is planning to commemorate January 6th in some way. But we should also acknowledge that the anniversary will unleash a flood of commentary and retrospectives about an event that was deeply unsettling. It is understandable that the anniversary (and commentary) will remind us of the shock and disbelief we experienced as we watched the Capitol assaulted by violent insurrectionists.
The video of the assault on January 6th depicts real events that we should not seek to minimize, but the video of that day will be played on a loop and in a way to amplify the events beyond their true boundaries. What you will not see is the 334 million Americans who remained peacefully at home. We will not see the quiet dignity of the Inauguration that followed less than three weeks later. We will not see the resolve of the members of the House and Senate who returned to the Capitol hours later to complete the constitutional mandate to count the electoral votes. Democracy prevailed because men and women who saw that it was threatened rose to the occasion to defend it.
January 6th is not about the assault, but about its defeat. It is not about the insurrectionists, but those who defended the Capitol. It is not about how close we came to disaster, but that democracy prevailed once again. We should draw strength and confidence from January 6th, not fear and panic. But in that strength and confidence, we must find the resolve to ensure that we never let it happen again. The insurrectionists and coup plotters have retreated, not disbanded. They are looking for weakness and opportunity. We must redouble our efforts to defend the Constitution by doing everything Professor Tribe listed in his essay—and more. The single most potent weapon in the defense of democracy is the right to vote. It we vote in overwhelming, incontestable numbers, we will create a bulwark against future insurrections. We can do that. We have done it before. Let’s do it again.
Talk to you tomorrow!
Tomorrow, Jan 5 we have to celebrate the victory of Democratic candidates, Ossoff and Warnock and of course Biden, in Georgia, one year ago!!
No better example of the power and majesty of the vote than Senator Warnock himself, who foiled all obstacles to win the Georgia seat!