Over at NY Mag, Ed Kilgore writes about how Vice President Kamala Harris has unveiled a fallback strategy in case voting rights bills fail to pass Congress.
First, for some context, NBC News reports on the Harris announcement:
Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Thursday a $25 million investment by the Democratic National Committee to support efforts to protect voting access ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The announcement comes as Republican-controlled states around the country have passed a wave of restrictive voting rights laws fueled in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the results of the 2020 election.
President Joe Biden has been criticized by some Democrats and civil rights advocates for not taking a more aggressive approach to fighting those new laws after Senate Republicans blocked voting rights legislation last month.
Kilgore argues that “it’s true Democrats have failed to overcome Republican resistance to voting-rights legislation, either by securing GOP support or by convincing Democratic centrists like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to restrict or abolish the competing right of Senate minorities to kill legislation via the filibuster.” (Ed. note: Emphasis added.)
He concludes, stating that “what Harris announced should be treated as a serious and important contribution to the cause of voting rights, not dismissed as an excuse for failure to do the impossible in Congress.”
I do not take issue with Vice President Harris or her announcement. In fact, it is vital for at least one of America’s major parties to invest in voter protections while the other party attempts to dismantle what’s left of democracy in the United States.
However, there are at least two major issues with this piece:
1) A person of color’s right to vote and the “right” of 41 (mostly white) senators to block legislation are not remotely equal competing interests. The filibuster is the perfect demonstration of white supremacy in Congress. It was used to deny civil rights in the middle of the 20th century. Now it’s used to deny voting rights protections in the 21st century.
2) There is nothing “impossible” about the Democratic majority using their majority to pass voting rights bills. Is it difficult to get 50 senators (51 with VP Harris) to agree on legislation? Yes. But it is hardly an “impossible” task.
After all, Republicans managed to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to ram three Trump appointees onto the Supreme Court – including a seat that they held vacant for a year in the hopes of winning the White House in 2016 and another that they filled merely days before Election Day 2020 when voters opted to kick Donald Trump to the curb. (In January 2021, voters elected a Democratic Senate majority.)
It’s also worth noting that the Supreme Court just gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the DOJ is relying on in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voter suppression law. So one of the fallbacks that Kilgore mentions is basically dead in the water.
The only thing preventing Senate Democrats from eliminating the filibuster for voting rights bills, reforming the filibuster (i.e. a “talking filibuster”), or eliminating the filibuster entirely is the will to act decisively in order to protect our democracy.