The Republicans in Congress are employing lies and misrepresentations in their quest to regain power. Their strategies are fueled by emotions, not facts; symbols, not substance; and personal power, not public good. The Republicans have chosen to fight the Democrats in three arenas: blocking the President’s proposed relief/stimulus bill, curtailing voting rights and shifting responsibility for the January 6 Capitol invasion from Trump supporters to the counter-factual notion of left-leaning radicals.
Building Back Better: Combating the Pandemic and Fiscal Crisis
President Joe Biden’s first legislative initiative has been greeted with a tremendous bipartisan response, with 76% of American voters and 60% of Republicans supporting the $1.9 trillion emergency relief bill. This represents bipartisan approval from vast majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. The President did what he said he would do: bring Republicans and Democrats together around an agenda of building back a better America.
But wait. The bill had 0% of Republican support when it passed the House of Representatives, and it looks as if no Republicans will back the measure in the Senate. So how are we going to measure bipartisanship? Will it be by cross-party support from the American people, or by self-serving Republicans in Congress scrambling to defeat a Democratic President?
And at this point, the most often Republican-used tool has come into play: obstructionism by lie, inuendo and filibuster. They do not want a Democratic President to get credit for lifting the nation out of the disease and recession quagmire we are now stuck in. So they unite against an initiative that has tremendous bipartisan support by attacking Democrats for being overly partisan.
Yes, it is true, in the face of the unyielding opposition from Republican Senators, Democrats will most likely use the tool of reconciliation to get the bill through Congress and onto the president’s desk for signature. “Not fair” shout the Republicans, “using reconciliation is a violation of bipartisanship,” conveniently ignoring the fact that it is exactly the same process they used to jam through the McConnell/Trump tax cuts.
White Washing Dirty Linen
When FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee he reported that Trump-boosting insurrectionists were responsible for invading the Capitol on January 6. He emphasized that they were militia extremists, not “fake Trump supporters” as some Republican Senators argued. They were not representing Antifa; they were not left-wing agitators.
They were violent thugs acting on behalf of Trump. They destroyed property, killed a Capitol police officer and injured many more as they sought to capture Nancy Pelosi and to hang Vice President Mike Pence.
Despite Wray’s fact-based testimony and despite Speaker Pelosi’s call for a 9-11-style investigation into the violent invasion, Republican Senators like Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and Josh Hawley are still trying to manipulate the truth. They insist that Antifa and leftists masquerading as Trump supporters were the perpetrators. They rejected Pelosi’s call for a commission and instead want to investigate street violence.
Why do they not want to get to the truth? Because, I think, they fear that the truth will further indict Trump; and that perhaps some of them will be found to have had a hand in instigating the violence. Remember Senator Hawley urging them on with a raised-fist salute?
Limiting Voting Destroys Democracy
Why do Republicans try so hard to exclude voters from the ballot box? Because if the majority turns out to vote they will lose. So instead of refashioning their platform—or, perhaps, writing one for the first time since 2016— they have decided to use their gerrymandered control of state legislatures to restrict access to the polls.
Putting limits on who can vote is not a new tactic. There was a time when race, gender, poll taxes and literacy tests were used to disqualify potential voters. But voting rights are now enshrined in the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments to the Constitution. So, Republicans are now focused on using state laws and rules to build barriers around polling places. According to the Brennan Center for Justice legislatures in 43 states have either “carried over, prefiled or introduced 253 bills” that would make it harder to vote. And, with a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court they are confident that a majority of those laws will be upheld.
The solution lies in the Congress. The Constitution is clear: Article 1, Section 4 states, “The times, place and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but, the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.” (emphasis mine)
Accordingly, the House is sending the Senate a bill that sets national standards for voting access by mandating: online registration, voting by mail, at least 15 days of early voting, redistricting commissions, disclosure of “dark money” campaign contributions, public funding for congressional elections, and other important provisions.
A challenge to all of us who believe in Democracy is to get behind House Bill 1, “The For The People Act of 2021.” Contact your Senators and urge them to support the bill. If it fails because of a filibuster, it will be time to abolish that relic and allow a simple majority to set the policy.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.