S1, Mitch McConnell, and Joe Manchin

From a Google Image Search – Committed Conservative

When they need a picture in the dictionary for abuse of power the picture will be of Mitch McConnell. For twelve years he has been goading Democrats, gloating over victories against Democrats, obstructing Democratic policies by not allowing bills to come to the floor of the Senate. He has whipped his Republican members to vote in lockstep fashion on every Democratic endeavor and for four years he was the minion of Trump who did Trump’s bidding and got to do a lot more of that gloating he uses to “stick it to the libs.” 

Mitch McConnell has ground government to a halt because the Republicans have no bills to pass, only judges to confirm. That just one wrinkled, puny old man in granpa glasses could have so much power in America is another sign that all is not well with our American democracy as designed in our documents. When those laws and rules can be so easily reinterpreted to favor some Americans over others (rich over poor, white over black) we see that an out-of-kilter America is the result. Additionally, because of the use of media to give nuclear powers to propaganda many Americans are convinced that Republican politics favors them when it doesn’t and they are armed.

Today S1 comes up for a vote in the Senate. This vote will only decide whether or not the bill can come up for debate. There is a debate about whether the bill can come up for debate. Talk about bureaucratic nonsense. This bill is the Senate version of HR1, a bill to protect voting rights of Americans which are under attack by a minority party, the Republican Party, desperately trying to cling to power. Because it will require 60 votes to move from debate on the floor to a vote, and because Mitch McConnell is against this, the Republicans in the Senate will most likely vote no and return to the business of collecting a paycheck while plotting ways to stay in power.

Mitch McConnell is busy accusing the Democrats of trying to fix voting to favor Democrats. Democrats are the majority party. They should not have to fix votes in their favor right now. They only have to worry that voting will not be fair and free because of Republicans policies, “a tyranny of the minority.” (Senator Debbie Stabenow-D-MI) Republicans always like to accuse Democrats of doing what Republicans are actually doing. 

Recent changes to voting rules being passed in red states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan to make sure that Republicans can control the outcome of voting in those states, even allowing judges to overturn election results if they feel they are inaccurate, attest to the need for new protections of voting rights. 

Mitch McConnell says that this bill is designed to get Democrats elected so it is a bad bill and he whips Republicans to vote nay. Since the bill gets rid of Republican attempts to fix the vote in their own favor and overturns the brazen attempts Republicans have taken to insure minority rule his point is, of course, accurate. Democrats are favored in most urban area. Our population is concentrated in urban areas. The idea of one person, one vote makes it true that urban voters give Democrats an edge over Republicans who are favored in smaller, more rural places. It should not matter where the votes originate. 

Large urban centers did not result from any Democratic Party conspiracy but for cultural reasons, employment opportunities, housing options. Republicans have manufactured a war between urban and nonurban dwellers which puts the idea of one person, one vote at risk. They want to use other standards to measure votes, such as parsing the way the electoral college results are determined in states. If votes went with the person who got the most votes rather than being divided proportionally then that would advantage small red states and offer Republicans the opportunity to keep their minority party in power. In other states the opposite might be true so let the states decide. These aberrations to our voting laws are all about power and they are twisting our republic out of shape and changing a system of voting that needed no changes.

The Democrats do not seem to be operating under any lucky stars in recent years. Political machinations of Republicans are working very well and the only referees a democracy has are the courts. Stuff the courts, fix the vote, rule the land. Even in a year when many lashed back against a ridiculous Republican President, an incompetent rude fellow, Democrats were not able to win control of the Senate. The Senate is tied with each party having 50 votes and a filibuster which requires 60 votes for most bills to come to the floor or to pass into law in the Senate. 

The Democrats don’t really even have 50 votes because Senator Joe Manchin and often, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will not vote for the S1 bill, or indeed any Democratic bill unless it is bipartisan and they feel that it would be wrong to kill the filibuster even though it was not a part of our original documents. 

Although Democrats need to pass bills in order to show America that their policies have merit, two members of their own party are blocking bills that could address inequities in our society that could turn most Americans into essentially hamsters walking a wheel designed by our capitalist overlords via the Republican Party. West Virginia is a state full of workers, full of folks who struggle to make ends meet. I would think that Joe Manchin’s insistence on keeping a mere legislative rule over the prosperity of citizens in the state he represents would make him a very unpopular choice for reelection. Arizona has been turning more purple for some time and Krysten Sinema may also find herself doing poorly in her next election if her people understand how her nay vote on Democratic bills will hurt them. If Democrats have given Republicans too much rope and it is too late to rein them in we may all live in a dystopian state sooner rather than later. It feels pretty dystopian already. Democratic policies could turn that around.

Using Roe and Federalism to Divide America

We are getting closer and closer to becoming a loose collection of individual states with a federal government that supposedly deals only with defense and international trade. The pandemic gave us glimpses of what this version of America will be like with every state having to compete for PPE’s in a pandemic, with states afraid to rile up citizens or an irrational president by requiring a simple precaution like wearing a mask. These are decisions that would have solved simple logistical problems that could have shortened the pandemic. 

In a States Rights scenario, states will be up for grabs and Democrats and Republicans will have to compete to win the most states in order to win the Presidency. Which party holds the Presidency would become increasingly beside the point, except that there is a simultaneous push to make the Executive omni-powerful, which we saw under a Trump administration that turned the Justice Department into a puppet offering unconditional support to the president. It should strike others besides me that giving state governors and legislatures power and making the federal chief executive all powerful are two goals that are at odds with each other, unless there is only one political party.

Democrats have not wooed state governments. They have followed old traditions and backed a strong federal government with three branches and checks and balances. They claim to be following our US Constitution. The problem is that Republicans also claim to be following a different section of the US Constitution that lists the rights of the federal government and the rights of the states. They say they are ‘originalists’ and want the powers of these two entities sorted out as the founders intended. 

However, even the founders could not agree about whether to make the federal government stronger and have the United States of America as the dominant face to present to the world, or whether to have a more decentralized government and give states powers to make decisions on their own and have identities of their own. This state’s rights model would turn states into entities similar to nations in Europe and our Federal government would be something like the Council of the EU. 

George Washington and Alexander Hamilton favored a strong central government. Thomas Jefferson and other southerners favored state’s rights as more important. This was all argued out in the Federalist papers. The modern Federalist Society pushes the state’s rights interpretation as more true to the constitution, thus ignoring 245 years of subsequent laws and traditions. 

There were only thirteen states when our new nation fought these battles about how to govern America. There were only about 2.5 million citizens. Of course we now have 50 states and 350 million citizens. Wouldn’t going forward in an America that is a loose collection of so many states and such a large population bring chaos? Isn’t that a greater dilemma to consider than channeling the hearts of our founders, which, as we know, were no less flawed than any human hearts?

From a Google Image Search – Gallup poll

Despite reservations, we are seeing a change in the relationship between the federal government and the states. Republicans went into states, perhaps using the issues of abortion and worker’s grievances to tip the scales in states where Christian churches had a firmer hold. They stoked anger on radio talk shows and from church pulpits. They formed power groups with corporatists, especially in fossil fuel industries and with Evangelicals. They used ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council to tailor laws to support Republican talking points. They rigged the vote with savvy use of computer data and gerrymandering. They got the pre-clearance section of the Voter Rights Act overturned by the Supreme Court. They continue to pass voting laws in states that make it more difficult for Democrats to ever win an election. They basically control the executive and legislative branches in thirty states. Democrats have control in only 18 states.

Is sneaking around behind the scenes to engineer voting and policy something that we condone in American politics? While we might admire the strategic cohesion of Republican machinations we recognize that such shifty politics is undemocratic because it relies on propaganda and even trades in threats to people’s immortal souls to achieve an end that is divisive and undemocratic. One party has planned and executed its plan to steal power and destroy the other, to turn America into a nation ruled by a single party. Can democracy last in a single party system? Not if the Republicans are that party.

So watch carefully as the Supreme Court makes its decisions this summer. If they make a decision about abortion that clearly overturns Roe v Wade will that tear our nation apart? If Congress falls back into Republican hands in 2022 will that tear our nation apart? If it happens that abortion can be decided by the states will that open the door to allowing states to have their own rules on other issues like guns? 

Will states set up borders like the ones between Canada and America and Mexico and America to enforce their own laws? Will people need passports to travel from state to state? What will happen to interstate trade? Will there be inspections at state borders? Will trucks be turned away and have to find a different route? Will citizens naturalized in one state still be illegal in another? 

How far will we take the small government lie as the presidency gains more and more power? What will happen to us if the world sees us fighting among our own states? Will we fight a second Civil War over women’s right to control their own bodies, over voting rights, over masks, over the power of the presidency, over fossil fuels and sustainability-all issues that separate states but also residents within states. Will we just live without abortion rights until we learn all over again that they are a necessary albeit sad reality of modern life.

You might like to check out this article by Ronald Brownstein from The Atlantic on the subject. My heart is breaking over our divided nation, our nation flirting with authoritarianism. Unless President Biden can pass voting rights legislation and kill the filibuster, many writers say, we are in for continued strife and possibly worse. Did the Democrats wait too long to act? Are they being too conciliatory or too meek?