Last week, in the days that followed Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and the federal holiday created to recognize it, the US Senate voted on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. While the vote on the bill was a tie (50-50, a party-line vote), the bill did not go to the Vice President to break the tie; it needed to reach a 60-vote threshold due to a procedural move by the Republican senators to announce a filibuster. By taking no further action, the bill died on the floor.
There was an additional vote taken as well to change the senate filibuster rules by forcing the minority party to take some further action in order to sustain the procedural move. This vote went down 52-48, with two senators from the democratic side joining all 50 Republicans to retain the current, existing senate rules. As I’m sure you have heard their names by now, I don’t feel inclined to repeat them here. Each of them made floor speeches regarding the virtue of compromise and their disappointment with senate colleagues from their own party who would change the rules in order to pass a bill along party lines only.
Strangely, though, when Republicans were last in power, their party-line votes did not garner such vitriolic rhetoric from these two distinguished pols. They just shrugged and said, “meh.” This is how we got another round of corporate tax cuts and 3 far-right reactionary Supreme Court justices. But I digress.
How is one supposed to consider compromise with a party that is speeding in one direction down the dark road to fascism? Can we not even agree that the rule of law and democracy are worth saving?
Our relatively stable system of government is still young, and still evolving. Our history is filled with examples of our system being stretched and flexed, but the last few years have found it under more pressure than would have been unimaginable a decade earlier. However the things that bind us together are ultimately greater than the things that tear us apart. Perhaps until now.
Our country was created, overlaid upon a backdrop of colonialism and white supremacy. While this fact may be uncomfortable for some, that doesn’t make it less true. The subjugation of all people who were “other” than the European “settlers” in the original 13 colonies of what became the USA predates any efforts to form the nation itself. European explorers and colonizers may have come to the “New World” seeking freedom from religious persecution, but the grace they sought from their “oppressors” in the old country was NOTHING like what they subjected the Native Americans to as they took over the land piece by piece. The importing of slaves to work the land also began prior to the country being established. The point you choose to identify as the “birth of the nation” really does depend on your perspective, but these facts cannot be denied.
The truth is that there are many people in this country that believe that the systems we built, the structures that hold us together, were set up in such a way that they are all race-neutral, that were are all playing on the same field, and that the results of which being what they are (more white people in positions of power and leadership) are due to merit and leadership skills, NOT the inherent benefit of the doubt automatically given to light-skinned people. The truth is so much more complex based on a full and complete reading of American history.
It doesn’t take one to be a racist to have been given the invisible (to them) benefits of a racist system their entire lives. A fish doesn’t know its wet. You need to listen to those who live OUTSIDE that system, those who are marginalized, and really grasp their stories in order to see the full picture.
Our democracy will only continue to function when we allow all citizens to vote, remove barriers that primarily affect the low-income, BIPOC and young people in our country. Those are the voices we are not hearing and they are the ones we MUST hear from in order to save this nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal.” The people in power must be willing and able set up free and fair elections and to remain humble and concede when they have been voted out. Violence should never be an option. Intimidation should never be an option. Wielding power to anti-democratic ends should never be an option.
Do not let others take away your right to participate in elections. Even if you think you are fighting for the candidate you wanted, you may be the next to lose your rights. We must work toward strengthening out systems of elections and governance, to put clear limits on how elections and vote counting can be manipulated and protect and improve our government, not blow it up. The government is made of people, and people are fallible. But there is wisdom in the masses. We all are smarter collectively than even the smartest person is on their own.
So believe in systems and help build them to be better, even if the outcome isn’t what you wanted. We are playing an infinite game where the goal is to keep playing and the system of democracy will be sorely missed if we lose it. We need to hold onto it tightly, and use our time and intention to improve upon what we have. 🇺🇸🌈🏛