Politics

Call Your Members of Congress: The Fix Our Democracy, edition


In addition to all of our political psychology posts, Ye Olde Blogge has a series called Call Your MoC in which we advocate contacting a more involved citizenry in our government. It covers everything from passing legislation to enacting policy. One of our most popular pieces concerned contacting the administrator of the Government Services Administration, Emily Murphy, to ascertain that #BidenHarris were the apparent winners of the election and allow the transition to begin. Ultimately, that effort was successful.

In writing these posts and interacting with readers around them, I have found that we all need to understand the best way of advocating for the political positions and policies that we believe in. Our government is complex and it is not always clear who is responsible for doing what. I love doing the research and figuring that stuff out, and I’m happy to pass it along.

As such, this post and the previous one is not about contacting any specific person or group of people in the government to do anything about a particular policy or piece of legislation, but they are more about the process and the mechanics of it all. The Save Our Democracy, edition focused on the improved tips and suggestions that Indivisible published to help us better advocate for progressive policies in a government now controlled by Democrats. The Fix Our Democracy, edition focuses on specific steps Democrats can take to make our democracy work better. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the Repubes have exposed some of the weaknesses of our democracy and how they can be exploited to hurt us. We need to patch up the bulwark so we can better withstand their continued assault.

Fix Our Democracy

As it turns out beating the Ol’ Pussy Grabber was only the first step in taking our democracy back from the authoritarians who would hollow it out and stuff its rotting carcass with a single-party pseudo-democratic minority-rule autocracy whose sole purpose is to transfer the nation’s wealth to the one percent while the rest of us live in Cancer Alley, drinking Flint water, and dying quickly and quietly when we begin costing more than we contribute. If there was ever any doubt about that the Republican support for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s Big Lie that he actually won the election and there were massive irregularities and now for his insurrection riot has laid their intentions bare. They have all had to declare which side of the line they are standing on and the vast majority are on the side of authoritarianism.

The fight for the #COVID19 relief package also shows that they have deemed it worth allowing another 500,000 to 1,000,000 real live Americans to die needless painful deaths between now and 2022 if it means that they MIGHT have a chance of retaking Congress. They are going to obstruct #BidenHarris as much as or worse than they did Obama no matter how much it damages the country because nothing is more important than creating their authoritarian government to them.

The Ways Republicans Have Rigged Our Elections

Indivisible’s new guide is divided into three parts. The first address summarizes the lessons learned in 2009 during Obama’s first term and dealing with a Repube minority in Congress. It’s good, and depressing, and deserves a read, so go over and check it out! The second part is the Fix Our Democracy section. It also is worth reading because, brothers and sisters, does our democracy ever need fixing. The Repubes are so thoroughly rigged the elections — or at least thought they did until 2020 happened, amirite? — that they figured they didn’t have to worry about being held accountable by the electorate. They did it in three ways:

  1. Appealing to divisive emotional issues like abortion, gun rights, and immigration. They keep their base engaged and motivated by keeping them angry and fearful. They use racist dog whistles and increasingly open appeals to attract new voters. With a base that is willing to vote against their own best interest in order to maintain their ability to be as racist and misogynist as they wanna be — and make no mistake any single issue that appeals to the base is just a correlate for racism and misogyny — they have a chance in any election.
  2. Suppressing the votes of likely Democratic voters. By gerrymandering Democratic voters into districts and diluting the remaining Democratic vote they can maintain control of state legislatures and many House seats. By modernizing Jim Crow-era voter suppression laws, they can lower the number of votes for their Democratic opponents, especially in statewide elections. These include, but are not limited to, voter ID laws, the number of polling places, limiting mail-in voting, and the use of antiquated equipment in key Democratic districts. And, by using outright deception, disinformation, and intimidation, they can prevent people from voting.
  3. And, packing the courts with radically unqualified judges who are more likely to misapply the law in favor of Repube positions, so when court challenges to their suppressive voter laws do make it to courts and are appealed, the rulings are much more likely to be in their favor.

They had thought that 2020 would be the last election that even remotely resembled a free and fair election. Now, that they’ve lost the national election, but won in the states and increased their seats in the House, they figure, 2022 will be the death knell of our democracy and usher in their dreamed of single-party autocratic state like they have in Russia.

The Solutions

They are advocating that we focus on legislative fixes instead of amending the Constitution. It makes sense. Amending the Constitution is a long dubious process, but passing legislation with simple majorities can be done this month or next. These fixes have to structural so that they reflect a true democracy that favors a majority of voters opinions and doesn’t allow a minority to control the government and its decisions.

They provide a laundry list of reforms that Congress can enact with our support and list individual bills that were passed in the last Congress but were blocked by McConnell in the Senate. You can go read through their discussion of each at their site. You don’t need me to summarize it here. I will, however, list several of what I feel is key.

Senate reform

Filibuster reform: The filibuster is the Senate cloture rule that requires a 60 member vote to end debate and move to a vote on legislation or nominations. Essentially, it allows one member a la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to monopolize the debate by just not shutting up. Ted Cruz fatuitously read “Green Eggs and Ham” during his 21-hour farce to “stop” the ACA. And, Bernie Sanders spoke for eight hours to protest the extension of W’s tax cuts in the compromise that Obama had worked out with McConnell.

Nowadays, you needn’t be physically present to filibuster a bill since the only thing that needs to happen is 41 votes against cloture or tabling debate. With the Senate split 50-50, the Repubes have more than enough votes to prevent any motion or legislation they want from proceeding to a vote.

To steal Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat in 2017, McConnell had to end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. To end McConnell’s impasse on district and circuit court and other executive branch nominations in 2013, Reed had to end the filibuster for these votes, too. So, the filibuster has already been greatly curtailed, luckily, the Dems have several options for curtailing it further if the Repubes continue to abuse it. For more on what the Dems can and cannot do with the filibuster in place visit FiveThirtyEight’s excellent article. And, for a thorough listing of all of the Dems options for altering the filibuster and its history, visit Brookings.

For the Dems to move their legislative initiatives forward, it is imperative that they end the filibuster. Of course, this means that when they are in the minority, they will have fewer tools to slow or prevent Repube or whatever party it might be from enacting their agenda. But, we have to take care of today so that we might live to have a tomorrow.

DC Statehood. When the Founding Fathers created the legislative branch, they were worried that the House would be close to the people and that the people’s will would need leavening by cooler heads, meaning old, rich, rural white guys, which in those days meant slave owners. The House represented population, so as the country urbanized and state populations grew denser, especially in the older more established states, power in the House would shift around. Also, the House would balance urban and rural representation based on the demographics of each state. State needs would encourage state delegations to work together to advance the needs of the state.

The Senate, though represented the states, equally. Every state regardless of geographic or population size was represented equally. States with small populations had the same number of senators as those with large populations. As our country has urbanized, more and more people are concentrated into smaller and smaller areas, but their representation in the Senate remains the same.

This trend has gotten to be so drastic that by 2040 or so HALF of the US population will live in EIGHT states! HALF of the US population will be represented by 16 senators. Sixteen. The other half will be represented by 84 senators. How is that even fair? It isn’t. And, the addition of Washington DC doesn’t even come close to making up for it. It is clear that a more radical solution is necessary, like giving a minimum of two senators to each state and then increasing the number of senators as populations exceed certain thresholds. But, nobody’s talking about that… yet.

Court Reform

It is well known that McConnell orchestrated the packing of the federal judiciary including the Supreme Court by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. He did it using a twofold strategy: Deny Obama appointments by refusing to give nominees hearings or votes a la Merrick Garland. And, fastrack Trump appointees regardless of how radically unqualified they were.

It was a strategy of unparalleled success, too. Trump appointed a full quarter of all federal judges and two-thirds of the Supreme Court Justices. Republicans have appointed sixteen of the last twenty Justices to the Supreme Court. How is that even fair? It isn’t.

The solutions to the problems that afflict our democracy are interlocking. We have to end the stranglehold that bad faith senators have on our Senate by ending the filibuster, expand the number of senators so that representation is more equal, and expand the number of judges on all federal courts so that the impact of radically political justices nominated by Trump can be diluted.

It is an agenda that will be difficult to implement with such small margins in the Congress and with concerted opposition by Republicans, but one that must succeed if we are to save and fix our democracy. Help us to do it by committing to (1) staying informed about legislation and other matters before Congress and (2) working with others to contact your MoC’s to let them know your positions. We all have a roll to play and we all need to be involved.

If this is the kind of post you like to read and you want to be more involved in saving and fixing our democracy, then sign up for our Email list

Image Attribution

window, living room picture window – 13 – we give up! now under replacement contract by Claire CJS is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

11 replies »

  1. And, then, there is the problem of money in elections, both in the hands of the campaigns and “outside groups”. I can’t imagine that the current SCOTUS would contemplate overturning Citizens United (“money is speech”) decision. Constitutional amendment would likely be needed for that. Still, campaign finance law could be more tightly drawn to limit some of the Dark Money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      There is an amendment directed at overturning Citizens United. The latest state to pass the amendment is New Hampshire. We’re at 20 of the 38 needed, so there’s that. I may write a post on that and encourage people to contact state legislators in support. You know, in my copious spare time. Who knew a sabbatical year would be so busy?

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      You have to wonder how much or many of the Supreme Court Justices are corrupt. I go back and forth on John Roberts. His refusal to preside over the second impeachment trial really irked me. I don’t think it gets enough press. That alone is enough to call the whole proceeding into question. It delegitimizes the trial. Sure it is a political procedure, but the Chief Justice is specifically named in the Constitution. He also did the minimum in the first impeachment trial. A very big disappointment and his lack of clear vigorous support for the rule of law and our democratic institutions will be remembered and perhaps his biggest legacy. He is not rising to the challenges of our times.

      At a minimum there has been a degree of corruption with Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Roberts.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Roberts Court will be a subject for historians and legal scholars for a very long time, at least as much so as the Warren Court, though for rather opposite reasons.

        It is a bit of a fantasy to imagine the Court as being above politics when it’s most important decisions are political and often transformative.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the most transparently corrupt one is Clarence Thomas through his wife, Jenny, who was funding buses to take insurrectionist rioters to the Trump insurrection riots. Kavanaugh’s appointment from the suspicious resignation of Kennedy and had a lot of his debt paid off. Some of it is pretty blatant. Who knows what Roberts story is exactly, but it is bound to be more subtle than either of those.

        Jack

        Liked by 1 person

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