Andrew G. Bjelland: The For the People Act deserves bipartisan support, but will not receive it

The For the People Act, if passed into law, would expand and better protect voting rights. It would also curb partisan gerrymandering.

This legislation was first introduced two years ago. The House passed the bill on March 8, 2019, by a party-line vote of 234–193. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked any further action on the initiative.

In 2021 Democrats reintroduced the bill as H.R. 1 and S. 1. On March 5, 2021, it again passed in the House on a party-line vote of 220-210, with two Republican abstentions. It has advanced to the Senate where the Republicans will utilize the filibuster to block the bill from proceeding to a vote.

Although such legislation is much needed, past history indicates S.1 will not garner the support of even a handful of Republican senators.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice: “In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of … election irregularities … as of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, prefiled, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states.”

Further, the center reports: “The next round of redistricting … will be the most challenging in recent history … intense fights over representation and fair maps [are] all but certain in many states due to rapid demographic change and a weakening of the legal framework governing redistricting. Invariably, communities of color [will face] outright discrimination in some places and [be] used as a convenient tool for achieving unfair partisan advantage in others.”

Republican politicians are in thrall to whites who feel threatened by demographic shifts. They are fully aware that their aging white base is shrinking. They understand that voter suppression and extreme partisan gerrymandering are the primary means whereby they can keep minority and younger voters from the polls. The GOP’s current attack on voting rights is egregiously evident — particularly in red states verging on purple like Arizona and Georgia.

Far too many Republicans have little interest in governing on behalf of all the people. Trumpist-populists now constitute a too-big-to-fail-or-be-countered Republican faction. This faction exercises veto power over virtually all candidates who run for office in Republican primaries and is now the GOP’s dog-wagging tail.

The dominant Republican response to former President Trump’s 2020 election loss, coupled with their words and deeds since the Jan. 6 insurrection, further indicate that GOP office holders are unlikely to support any legislation that promotes one-person-one-vote representative democracy.

Few dare openly refute Trump’s Big Lie, the Big Lie proclaiming the Big Steal of the 2020 election by the Democrats. Even in the wake of the recent Big-Lie-inspired insurrection, Republican officeholders continue to exploit the Big Lie to justify restrictions on voters’ access to the polls.

Few dare oppose Trump, the twice-impeached president who, as McConnell acknowledged, remains “morally and practically” responsible for the Jan. 6 assault on our nation’s Capitol.

Democratic legislators recognize that America’s progress toward one-person-one-vote representative democracy is more imperiled now than at any time since the Jim Crow era. Democratic senators must act accordingly. They must do all within their power to secure the passage of the For the People Act.

For those who value representative democracy, what piece of legislation would better justify the Democrats’ elimination of the filibuster?

Andrew G. Bjelland

Andrew G. Bjelland, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus, philosophy department, Seattle University and resides in Salt Lake City.

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