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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) departs after the day's proceedings in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on February 10, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the U.S. Capitol on February 10, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images)

The End of Democracy as We Know It

Without Manchin, is the For the People Act dead? Probably, unless Biden can convince one Republican senator to join him in supporting it.

Robert Reich

 by RobertReich.org

Sunday morning, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he's a "no" on the For the People Act—and a no for ending the filibuster. 

This is a direct in-your-eye response to President Biden's thinly-veiled criticism of Manchin last Tuesday in Tulsa. 

If it means the end of the For the People Act, it would open the way for Republican-dominated states to continue their shameless campaign to suppress the votes of likely Democratic voters—using Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud as pretext. That's the beginning of the end of American democracy as we know it. 

Manchin's support for extending the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to all fifty states is better than nothing, but it would depend on an activist Justice Department willing to block state changes in voting laws that suppress votes, and an activist Supreme Court willing to uphold such Justice Department decisions. 

Don't bet on either. We know what happened to the Justice Department under Trump, and we know what's happened to the Supreme Court.

So without Manchin, is the For the People Act dead? Probably, unless Biden can convince one Republican senator to join him in supporting it. 

Would Mitt Romney or Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins be willing to do so and buck the voter-suppressing, Trump-dominated GOP? Or will history record that Republican senators were more united in their opposition to democracy than Democratic senators are in their support for it? 

The optimist in me says Romney will do it because he's an institutionalist who's appalled the authoritarianism that Trump has unleashed in the GOP. The cynical realist in me says no way.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
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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