The Trump era was truly terrible, yet, in the end, there were some significant silver linings. Most importantly, our democracy survived after being severely tested. Like many Americans, I doubted whether the country would have made it through another four years of Trump’s corrupt, autocratic rule, enabled by a kowtowing Republican Party.
In fact, Trump’s regime was a wake-up call. If we want our democracy to endure, a large majority of Americans now understand that we must do more to protect and strengthen it. We came very close to losing our democratic republic. The next time an authoritarian politician threatens our nation, we might not be so fortunate.
In the last few years, social and political activism has skyrocketed. Much of that was a backlash against the disgraced bully who just departed Washington. As a result, Biden carried Georgia and Arizona, two states the Democrats had not won since the 1990s. The Democrats also captured three Senate seats from those two states, giving them control of the upper chamber. We owe a great debt of gratitude to grassroots activist groups like Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Fair Fight in Georgia.
While this is a time to celebrate the beginning of a new Democratic administration and Senate majority, we must be clear that the struggle for the future of our country is far from over. You have to look no farther than the current battle between Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer over the filibuster to see how difficult that fight will continue to be.
For the Senate Democrats to agree that they will never vote to eliminate the filibuster, as McConnell insists, would give the Republicans veto power over Biden’s legislative agenda. McConnell’s argument to maintain the filibuster is based on the need for minority rights, and, at the same time, quite cynical, almost laughable. Still, he does have a point. Afterall, the minority party represents millions of Americans whose voices should be heard. But what rights did McConnell afford the Democrats when they were in the minority? Absolutely none!
As majority leader during the last six years, McConnell blocked hundreds of the bills favored by the minority Democrats from ever being considered, let alone voted on by the Senate. Many of those bills even had bipartisan support. Having experienced how McConnell arbitrarily blocked their initiatives, including an Obama Supreme Court nomination, Senate Democrats are justifiably rejecting McConnell’s demands.
At the same time, McConnell has put the Democrats in a bind. Since the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the two sides must come to a written understanding on how the new Senate will operate. Until there is an agreement on a Senate organizing resolution, the Senate will continue to operate under the previous resolution which gave control of the chamber to the then-majority Republicans. Senate Democrats are livid at yet another McConnell power-grab and strongly support Sen. Schumer’s refusal to grant his requirements.
So, as elegant as Biden’s call for unity was in his inaugural address, the prospects are not very good. Moving America forward cannot not be sacrificed on the altar of unity. Biden and Congressional Democrats must do what we elected them to do: Get the pandemic under control; get Americans back to work and school; and a host of other essential priorities. If they fail, the voters will turn back to the obstructionist Republicans in 2022. We must do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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