The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Sobering Time for Reflection and Renewal

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A time for reflection as well as renewal. This year, it’s also a very sobering time for all Americans.

After four years of the Trump Administration, a significant majority of Americans were relieved when the Democrats won the 2020 elections and took over the federal government. Finally, sane adults were back in charge. Less than nine months later the air is quickly escaping from the Democrats’ balloon. And they’re having a very difficult time trying to stop the hemorrhaging and recapturing their mojo.

History indicates that “(m)odern midterm elections have resulted in an average loss of 30 seats in the House of Representatives and Senate by the political party whose president occupies the White House.”[1] Now, with the slimmest majorities in both houses, the Democrats have little more than a year to give the American electorate good reason to buck history and retain their Congressional majorities.

Meanwhile, Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that the Democrats lose their majority status in next year’s election. Most notably, Republican controlled state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws making it harder for Americans to vote.[2] These laws will disproportionately affect Democratic voters.

The most effective Democratic counter to this Republican strategy would be to unite and pass major legislation that gives American voters the programs they want and the incentive to re-elect the Dems next year. Instead, they seem to have formed a circular firing squad guaranteeing they will shoot down any chance of winning next year’s election.

A prime example is the Democrats’ debate over their $3.5 trillion budget plan. When moderate Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) calls for a “strategic pause” on enacting this huge spending bill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, replied:

“Pause on finally delivering childcare, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America? Absolutely not.”[3]

Consequently, House progressives have threatened to withhold support for the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate if they don’t get a vote on their social spending measure at the same time.[4] Failure to resolve this impasse will spell disaster for the Party and a large majority of the American people.

Democrats are divided on other priorities as well. Nothing could be more important than protecting Americans’ right to vote. Yet, Democrats can’t seem to agree on how to deal with that pressing issue in the face of the Republican onslaught against voting rights. Without overriding the Senate filibuster, Democrats know that election reform bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act are dead in the water.[5] Still, Manchin and Sen. Sinema (D-Az.) oppose eliminating, or even altering, the filibuster to protect the right to vote.

The latest critical issue that will likely be stymied by the Democrats’ internal divide over the filibuster is women’s reproductive rights. While the House will probably soon pass an abortion rights bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision permitting the implementation of an extreme Texas anti-abortion law, it will surely be derailed in the Senate by the filibuster.[6]

So, in this sobering time of reflection and renewal, the Democrats must do some deep soul searching.  The urgent issues facing Congressional Democrats – voting rights,[7] the right to abortion,[8] the $3.5 trillion social budget,[9] and the For the People election reform bill[10] – all have the support of the majority of Americans.

Will the Democrats find a way to come together and give the voting majority who elected them the programs and policies they want? And, at the same time, give themselves a much better chance of winning next year’s election. Or will they continue to fight each other, cave into Republican power plays and the anti-democratic filibuster, and allow the obstructionist minority of Americans to control the future of our country?

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, 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

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