Schwab: Mitch, GOP, fearing voters, hide behind filibuster

A Senate rule, absent in the Constitution, offers an escape from being held accountable on democracy.

By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist

This really needs saying: If Democrats blow up Senate rules, millions of Americans will cease to have a voice in the Senate. Entire states would be shut out. Top Dems have floated breaking the rules for years now. This isn’t about new voting laws. It’s about silencing voters who inconvenience Democrats.

OK, maybe I should have put quotation marks around the words that followed “saying,” because they’re not mine, they’re Mitch “I’m not a hypocrite, you are” McConnell’s, tweeting about Democrats’ desire to modify filibuster rules to allow a vote on ensuring fair elections for all voters. It needs saying so everyone understands his mendacious hypocrisy.

McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and Senate minority leader, wrote that, after silencing voters who elected President Obama when it came to his ability to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Who circumvented the filibuster to pack the court with rightwing ideologues intent upon silencing most American voices on women’s health choices, environmental regulations, and more; and who, by gutting the Voting Rights Act, allowed the silencing of minority voters around the country. Challenging belief in divine agency, Malignant Mitch wasn’t immolated as he fingered his screen.

Even without the filibuster, current Senate makeup allows the silencing of a large majority of voters, as the Republican half represents over 40 million fewer Americans than the Democratic half. But it’s worse than that: the two Dakotas, for example, have a combined population of less than 2 million, yet they have four senators; all of them Republicans. California, with more than 40 million people, has two, both Democrats. It’s unlikely our mostly wise founders foresaw that level of inequity.

By requiring a 60-vote supermajority to get anything debated, much less voted upon, the filibuster compounds that structural inequity, giving control to an even more skewed minority of voters. The will of the majority has disappeared in remnants of Parchment Age compromises. A post-Civil War concoction, the filibuster isn’t in the Constitution, and was, until Mitch, rarely undertaken. For one thing, it originally required Mr. Smithing, round the clock. Now, McConnell has only to wink (YouTube: tinyurl.com/fili4u).

Using the filibuster as a sledgehammer, he’s fracturing the foundation of democracy. Which raises fundamental questions: In a democratic republic, what is the obligation of the winners of elections to the losers? To what are voters entitled when their preferences were disfavored by the majority? Isn’t their party’s Constitutional recourse — if they believed in democracy, which today’s Republicans don’t — either to rethink their message or to convince more voters they’re right? As opposed to (paraphrasing here) “silencing voters who inconvenience them?” That’s precisely what they’re doing in filibustering voting rights.

Average Americans have another option: Electing the party that would improve their lives, instead of the one that refuses even to produce a platform. That promises only to punish Democrats if they win congressional majorities. Misplaced revenge, not policy. Lucky voters!

To understand the differences between Democrats and today’s Republicans, one need only rise above the Foxotrumpian fog. Ds believe in facilitating voting for all qualified citizens, without prejudice, their party or not. Rs have been doing everything they can to ensure only its preferred voters have easy access; and doing so “with surgical precision,” as a judge said in striking down North Carolina’s blatant exclusion of racial minorities.

Two bills await Senate votes: the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both had bipartisan support in the House, where simple majority prevails. Neither contains rules that disfavor nor target any legal voters, or aren’t already in place, fraud-free and fair, in several states, including ours. Republicans, Democrats, truly equal access. How, well, democratic! It’s only because their top-heavy plans are rejected by most Americans that Republicans fear free elections. Readers should learn what’s in the bills, to see if they find anything unfair. Here’s a place to start: (tinyurl.com/newvote4u)

Being history’s most reviled as fraudulent — despite being shown, countless ways, countless times, to have been the cleanest — the election of Joe Biden makes the Republican game clear as a conman’s comb-over. Using every time-tested method of right-wing mind control at their disposal, they justify democracy-killing efforts by convincing the gullible that America’s exceptionally secure electoral systems are, in fact, rife with fraud. It’s a first-order, world-class lie. (Notably, of the insignificant handful of deliberately fraudulent ballots cast, nearly all were by Republicans voters; The Week: tinyurl.com/Rfraud4u.)

If it’s unfair to accuse Republicans of hating democracy, we’ll soon know. So far, they’ve only had to vote on cloture. When it comes to yay or nay on democracy itself, will any, belatedly, reject Trump’s big lie, standing for principle over party, democracy over Donald? Aye, there’s the rub meeting the road.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Jan. 19

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Editorial: Keep ‘Mockingbird’ on Mukilteo ninth-graders’ list

Concerns about the 1960 novel are legitimate, but allow students to learn from those criticisms.

With long-term care insurance, It's important to look at how the benefits are structured. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Editorial: Fix WA Cares and let it resume its important work

The long-term care program needs modest changes to fairly provide a valuable benefit to seniors.

FILE - Elementary school teacher Carrie Landheer protests for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols outside Oakland Unified School District headquarters on Jan. 7, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. Officials across the U.S. are again weighing how and whether to impose mask mandates as COVID-19 infections soar and the American public grows weary of pandemic-related restrictions. Much of the debate centers around the nation’s schools, some of which closed due to infection-related staffing issues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Editorial: Keep guard up against covid’s omicron variant

As much as half of the county could be infected by the variant; and hospitalizations are surging.

Comment: What a ICU doctor tells a patient as covid advances

Medical staff can do everything in their power to save lives; too often, covid can do more to take lives.

Strong schools mean strong community; vote for Everett levies

We are proud parents of two students in the Everett Public Schools.… Continue reading

Change filibuster to put senators’ votes on record

I was taught in school that the six-year term of a U.S.… Continue reading

Fans should support Seattle Kraken as the team builds

When it comes to the Seattle Kraken and their first year in… Continue reading

Comment: Cannabis rules slow research into covid treatments

While legal in many states, marijuana research is hampered by its federal Schedule I classification.

Most Read