Analysis: A serious week for civil rights, democracy and a presidency

The party faces a moment of stark symbolism just a day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which Democrats had set as a deadline to pass new laws to counter Republican restrictions on voting in several states. . The votes expected to be called by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will entrench ideological divisions in the party and challenge the credibility of a pressured president who has campaigned full-throated for legislation demanded by modern leaders of the civil rights in the week that he marks his birthday in office.
Despite several early-term successes, the stalemate over voting rights, and a separate but similar one over Biden’s social and climate protection plan, underscore the near impossibility of enacting major reform with a 50-plus Senate majority. -50. It only takes one senator to block an entire agenda. A failed suffrage campaign will also deal a blow to black leaders who were instrumental in Biden’s victory in the Democratic primary and the 2020 election. Many of these campaigners believe the White House waited too long. long to make suffrage the primary focus of his presidency — notwithstanding the fact that Biden had no credible avenue to push the bills through. Without the legislation, there could be serious consequences for Democratic enthusiasm and turnout in vital swing states in November’s midterm elections.
In a broader sense, the roadblock Biden hit in the Senate exposes the reality of a president who is in power but unable to wield the full weight of his office due to tiny congressional majorities cast by voters. in 2020. The situation is exacerbated by near-broad Republican opposition — except for a bipartisan infrastructure deal last year that eluded former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, but which Biden carried out in the one of his main achievements.

This week’s drama will create a new image of the futility of Democratic power in Washington. Yet the obstacle to passing suffrage reform and the Build Back Better climate and spending bill had long been evident. But the White House and Democratic leaders still chose to move forward without a clear path to success. Absent a last-minute U-turn from Manchin and Sinema, which is highly unlikely, the current rumble raises questions about the White House’s political strategy and its decision to prepare the public for reforms. historic generations without the guarantee that they could be adopted. At this point, there is a strong sense that Senate votes are held primarily for political reasons rather than the expectation that they will enact new laws.

When they hit the Senate wall, it’s unclear what the Democrats will do next. Asked about the administration’s plans on Monday, Harris said the strategy was to “keep working on it.”

“I’m making calls and meeting people. We’re not going to give up. You’ve heard me say this before, and I mean it. It’s too important,” the vice president told reporters.

It is true that the history of the civil rights struggle has unfolded over decades, encountered congressional filibuster worse than is likely to unfold this week, and ultimately rewarded a dedicated political campaign. But if Democrats can’t pass their suffrage bills soon, they risk losing the opportunity to do so for years to come, with Republicans convinced to take control of the House of Representatives and consider a takeover of the Senate in the November elections.

Sinema and Manchin stand firm

Manchin and Sinema have been unresponsive to the pressure and appear to have only become more entrenched as scrutiny of their positions has intensified. They have both argued — without much recent evidence — that the filibuster promotes bipartisan cooperation and laws that can be accepted by a majority of Americans. In a Senate speech last week that effectively served as a rebuke to Biden, Sinema also warned that eliminating the 60-vote threshold would in itself destroy a guarantee for democracy and empower future demagogues.
At the same time, Biden has effectively weakened his own political authority by signing deadlines and deadlines — from passing voting rights legislation to declaring partial independence amid the coronavirus pandemic last year — which were missed. At least four trips to Capitol Hill to cajole Democrats, including on the spending and climate bill, have yielded little for a president who sold his long record as a senator during the campaign. of 2020 as proof that he could build government coalitions. And the president effectively put all of his administration’s credibility on the line last week with a major civil rights and voting rights speech in Atlanta that even some members of his own party suggested went too far in comparing the lawmakers who do not support changing the filibuster rules to segregationists. .
Now Biden and the Democrats have raised the stakes for themselves by declaring a fateful moment for democracy, but risk coming away with nothing with a failure that could further dampen public perception of Biden’s tenure, which is struggling to resume. momentum in a midterm election. year.

If the voting rights legislation fails this week, as expected, it’s unclear how Democrats will proceed. While only one Republican, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, has voiced support for one of the current bills, the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act, the entire Senate conference in GOP opposes the Freedom to Vote Act. Taken together, the measures would give all Americans the right to vote by mail, create Election Day as a national holiday, standardize voting rules and restore protections against racial discrimination in state election laws struck down by the Court. supreme. Republicans call the bills a federal takeover of the electoral system and dismiss criticism of state election laws, which are rooted in Trump’s lies the 2020 election was stolen.

The threat to democracy grows

Some Republicans have expressed interest in working to change the voter count law to weed out shenanigans like Trump’s coup plot to overturn certification of the 2020 election that led to the Capitol insurrection. It would be a tangible step. But that wouldn’t appease suffrage activists who argue that the Republican wave of state laws designed to suppress voting and politicize election certification have endangered American democracy itself.

Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights pioneer, tapped into that sense of urgency on Monday, warning that 50-year-old students would read what’s happening in the Senate this week.

“No matter what happens tomorrow, we have to keep the pressure on and stop saying empty words. Don’t tell us what you believe in, show it to us with your votes,” he said. “History will look at what happens tomorrow.”

Pro-Trump Republicans attempt to rewrite state election laws as voting rights showdown looms in Congress

Democracy advocates are particularly concerned about moves in some states that seek to politicize the nonpartisan process of collecting and tabulating election results, after some notable Republican officials stood firm in 2020 against Trump’s bid to steal an election that several courts and even his own Justice Department says he lost.

The threat in this regard posed by the increasingly autocratic Trump is only becoming more extreme. The ex-president spewed more outlandish and dangerous lies about non-existent voter fraud at a rally in Arizona on Saturday night. He also lobbied state lawmakers to decertify Biden’s election victory. In a recent video message, the twice impeached and defeated ex-president also claimed he won Pennsylvania, a state he actually lost by more than 80,000 votes to Biden.

“We will have to be much more precise next time when it comes to counting the votes,” said Trump, who has tried to mobilize supporters in election commissions and in positions responsible for organizing the vote across the country. “Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate,” he added.

So far, Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have all failed. But his anger over refusing to admit defeat to Biden has led to substantial changes to the US electoral system that arguably make it less democratic. The current president and his party may be about to squander their best, and perhaps their last chance to respond.

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