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.

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