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Time to Choose: Democracy or Authoritariansim

Senate Democrats have the power to end the filibuster and thereby allow the For the People Act to become law. It’s time for Democrats to unite on this, without hesitation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), speaks during a news conference to announce the introduction of S. 1, the For the People Act, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), speaks during a news conference to announce the introduction of S. 1, the For the People Act, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republican-controlled state legislatures have introduced over 361 voter suppression bills in 47 states, and some states, like Georgia, have already enacted them into law. 

There’s only one way to stop this assault on our democracy. It’s called the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT, and the window for Congress to pass it is closing.

These Republican voter suppression bills are egregious—they shrink early voting periods, add onerous voter ID requirements, limit eligibility for mail-in ballots, ban ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting, and even make it a crime to give voters in line water.

The real purpose of these restrictions is to hamper voting by Black people, people of color, young people, and lower-income Americans. The FOR THE PEOPLE ACT, on the other hand, would prevent these tactics and make it easier to vote. In addition, gerrymandering would be reduced and the power of small political donors would be amplified.

It could not come at a more critical time.

The Republican assault on our democracy is based on the lie that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Multiple recounts in battleground states like Georgia found nothing. Investigations by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department found nothing. 61 out of 62 courts found nothing.

Republicans claim they’re just listening to the concerns of their voters and restoring "trust" in our elections. Rubbish. The real purpose of these restrictions is to hamper voting by Black people, people of color, young people, and lower-income Americans. 

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After Black voters and organizers in Georgia flipped the state blue for the first time in decades, the GOP is pulling out all the stops to prevent the same from happening in other states. The situation is even more dire given the upcoming once-in-a-decade redistricting process, allowing Republican-controlled states to further gerrymander congressional districts.

Their assault on the right to vote is a coordinated, national strategy led by top party leaders and outside dark-money advocacy groups like the Heritage Foundation. That group is working directly with state legislatures to provide them with "model legislation" and gearing up to spend $24 million in eight states to advance these bills ahead of the midterms.

Unless the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT becomes law, these restrictive state bills will go into effect before the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, and entrench Republican power for  years to come. So it’s essential we protect voting rights now, while we still can. 

This is not a partisan fight. It’s a battle between forces that want to go backward to an era of Jim Crow, and the majority of Americans who want to build a more inclusive democracy.

Yet the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT faces an uphill battle in the Senate because of the archaic filibuster rule that requires a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation.

The good news is Senate Democrats have the power to end the filibuster and thereby allow the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT to become law. It’s time for Democrats to unite on this, without hesitation. 

The stakes could not be higher. Simply put, it’s democracy or authoritarianism.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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