The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Our Broken Democracy Be Fixed?

This past weekend Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago. At the same time, Jews were commemorating the liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian bondage. Together the Easter and Passover holidays raise a profound question for all Americans in these troubling times:

Can we liberate ourselves from the growing anti-democratic movement in our nation and resurrect our dying democracy?

Honestly, I am not very optimistic. Afterall, our political leaders seem much more interested in gaining and maintaining power than they are in solving our country’s problems. This is particularly true on the right. As I noted in my last blog, “with few exceptions the Republicans have been total naysayers and obstructionists.”[1]

So, what can we do? First, we must come to grips with the fact that we are in a fight for the very survival of democracy. We must press upon state and national Democratic leaders that this is the case and that they, along with us, must publicly stress that we are in this critical battle to save our democracy.

Second, we must call out by name the great many Republicans and the few Democrats who are blocking the effective functioning of our democracy. For instance, senators like Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, who opposed changing a rule that would have enabled the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, guaranteeing the right to vote to all Americans.[2] And, the numerous Republicans who are acting to restrict the right to vote in many red states across the country.[3]

Third, we must hold Democrats’ feet to the fire. Voters need to be reassured that President Biden and his party understand their problems and are currently delivering effective solutions. Biden needs to fulfill his pledge to the 43 million Americans with student loan debt to cancel at least part, preferably all, of the $1.7 trillion student debt.[4] We must demand that he keep his promise and do it now.

Congressional Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to pass Biden’s Build Back Better bill since last summer. Time is running out before November’s crucial elections. Sen. Manchin has been the primary holdout to adopting the legislation. Senate Democrats need to slim the bill down to its most popular provisions – reducing prescription drug prices, tax reforms, and climate investments – which they all can agree on.[5] We must strongly lobby our senators and representatives to adopt the bill immediately and get it on Biden’s desk.

Finally, Americans need to truly understand what putting Republicans in charge of Congress in November would mean. Given how obstructionist they have been as the Congressional minority, it is not difficult to imagine how Republicans could completely thwart any Biden initiative for the remainder of his term in office should they gain control of Congress. Most likely no progress would be made on voting rights, tax reform, prescription drug prices, healthcare, climate change or almost anything else the president might propose to assist most Americans.

So, it is up to you and me. Together we must make crystal clear what is at stake in the coming election. We must call out those who are working to destroy our democracy. And we must demand that our Democratic senators and representatives act now. If our nation is to be liberated from the growing anti-democratic movement in its midst and our dying democracy is to be resurrected, we are the ones who must make it 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/democrats-rev-voting-rights-push-end-2021-senate-path-remains-n1286080#anchor-Aperfectstorm

[3] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/19-states-enacted-voting-restrictions-2021-rcna8342

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/more-since-biden-found-whether-102000786.html

[5] https://www.vox.com/2022/3/16/22955410/build-back-better-scenarios

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is Trump’s Support of Putin’s Ukraine Invasion a Bridge Too Far for Republicans?

It’s hard to know what to make of the Republican Party these days. The Grand Old Party used to stand for family values and against the former communist Soviet Union, now Russia. Remember when Republican President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the “evil empire?” That was before Donald Trump came along and turned the GOP upside down.

Trump recently congratulated Russian President Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine calling it a “savvy” move and a “stroke of genius.”[1] With Trump heading the Party, many Republicans followed his lead and began seeing Russia in a more favorable light. In a recent Gallup poll, only one-in-three Republicans saw Russia as a threat.[2]

As for family values, the only one Republicans support is the right to be born. Once a mother gives birth and an actual family exists, the GOP wants no part of it. A few months ago, with Trump cheering them on, Congressional Republicans rejected President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation to support stronger families. The bill would have extended child tax credits, provided universal preschool for all 3 and 4-year old children, offered free school lunches for millions of low-income students, expanded healthcare, capped childcare costs and more.[3]   

But maybe Trump’s embrace of Putin and his invasion of democratic Ukraine was a bridge too far for even most Republicans.  A recent NBC poll “found that 56% of GOPers describe themselves as supporters of the Republican Party, with 36% saying they are supporters of Trump. That’s a reversal from late 2020, when 54% described themselves as supporters of Trump and 38% supporters of the GOP.”[4]

Trump’s biggest supporters in 2020 were white male voters without a college degree. Seventy percent of them went for Trump. Now only 50% favor him while 46% disapprove. Additionally, voters over 65 are generally more conservative. Trump won 52% of them in 2020. A recent poll indicated that 60% of those older voters now view Trump unfavorably.[5]

At the same time, Biden’s performance has not been receiving very high marks. The latest poll has him at 53% disapproval and 43% approval.[6] Still, a January survey found that Biden would best Trump, 53% to 43%, in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.[7]

What to make of all this? More Republicans appear to be tiring of Trump’s empty bluster. They are seeing Trump as the con man that he is, whether it’s his Big Lie about the 2020 election or his support of Putin. They abhor Trump’s vengefulness and his constantly putting himself above the interests of their party.

What remains to be seen is the Democrats’ response. Bill Maher recently suggested that the Democrats need to be gracious to those former Trump lovers. Not to shame them for their failure to see through Trump, but rather “provide a face-saving path” out of Trump world.[8]

This is another opportunity for the Democrats to regain their mojo. With the coming House Select Committee’s hearings on the January 6th insurrection, the receding of the COVID pandemic, the nominating of a highly qualified, black woman to the Supreme Court, the recovering economy and Trump’s losing his shine, Biden and the Democrats may yet win back the voting public next fall.

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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://fortune.com/2022/02/23/trump-cheers-putin-ukraine-invasion-as-savvy-genius-russia/

[2] https://time.com/6150495/republicans-russia-putin-trump/

[3] https://www.deseret.com/2021/11/19/22792043/build-back-better-bill-senate-families-biden-congress

[4] https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2022-02-11/bidens-loss-isnt-trumps-gain

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-BIDEN/POLL/nmopagnqapa/

[7] https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2022-02-11/bidens-loss-isnt-trumps-gain

[8] https://www.thewrap.com/bill-maher-warns-democrats-not-to-humiliate-republican-voters-whose-trump-fever-is-cooling-down-video/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Utter Failure of the Republican Party

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Build Back Better Act to Save the Democratic Congress and Our Democracy

If Pres. Biden and Congressional Democrats act quickly, they can still pass the Build Back Better bill and protect voting rights in time to save our democracy before the November elections.

Last December I was part of a small contingent of New Mexicans that met with two of NM Sen. Ben Ray Lujan’s top staffers. We advocated for:

  • the elimination of all remaining sections of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Sens. Manchin and/or Sinema still objected; and
  • the inclusion of the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets (at least in part) the reconciliation process requirements.

While they considered our viewpoint, Lujan’s lieutenants rejected our proposal. For one, they did not believe voting rights belonged in the BBB bill and, rather, should stand alone. Last week that strategy failed when Senate Republicans along with Manchin and Sinema defeated a stand-alone voting rights act by rejecting a change in the filibuster which would have permitted the adoption of the bill.

How To Pass BBB and Voting Rights

Since the Democrats’ previous attempts to pass the BBB and the Freedom to Vote acts have failed, here’s how they should now proceed to have a better chance of success:

1. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has to make amends for his harsh remarks regarding Sen. Manchin’s rejection of the BBB legislation last year. Manchin is reported to be very upset about being publicly called out by Klain after the senator scrapped the bill.[1]

2. Pres. Biden needs to sit down with Manchin and Sinema and together agree on a BBB reconciliation bill in the range of $1.7 trillion. This would include the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts which the senators already support. The stand-alone voting rights act couldn’t overcome the filibuster. Inserting voting provisions into the BBB reconciliation bill provides the only chance to enact them. That is because “reconciliation legislation limits Senate debate on the bill to 20 hours and therefore, is not subject to the filibuster,”[2] thus allowing a simple majority to pass the bill.

3. Senate Democrats must rename the bill. Labeling the legislation the Lewis-Manchin Build Back Better Act would recognize and reward Sen. Manchin for his central role in both drafting and enacting this historic legislation. It might also increase Manchin’s determination to have the bill enacted and his name enshrined in history. Additionally, the new name would acknowledge the late Rep. John Lewis’s valiant work in advancing voting rights. And, perhaps most importantly, the fresh title would help to unite the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party in their efforts to win the mid-term elections and save our democracy.

Overcoming the Obstacles to Enacting Build Back Better

A major hurdle to enacting the BBB bill is the requirement that the Senate parliamentarian determine whether sections of the bill meet the requirements for including them in the reconciliation legislation.[3]

However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory. So, if she determines that voting rights provisions are “extraneous” to the BBB act under the Byrd Rule guiding reconciliation, and must be eliminated, the Democrats would have to override her decision in order to include those provisions in the final bill.[4] In fact, the “law gives the presiding officer – and only the presiding officer – the initial authority to determine if a disputed provision violates the Byrd Rule.”[5] In this case, Vice President Kamala Harris would be the presiding officer and would rule in all likelihood that the voting rights provisions are not extraneous.

Arguing that voting rights are not extraneous, Democrats could assert that inclusion of those provisions in the BBB act is essential to safeguarding major portions of the bill from being overturned by the next Congress. Without protecting the right to vote, millions of Americans’ voting rights are now being severely compromised by state legislatures. That could radically change the composition of the next Congress which then might very well vote to eliminate the budget changes implemented by the BBB legislation, or to refuse to appropriate funding for those changes.

Democrats Must Play Hardball

Sen. Mitch McConnell ignored Senate rules and procedures to deny President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court a hearing on his nomination in the spring of 2016, many months prior to the fall election.[6] Then, when President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch was stymied by the Democrats’ filibuster in 2017, McConnell changed Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority.[7] Subsequently, he ignored established procedures and rammed through the Senate the confirmation of Trump’s nominee by a simple majority right before the 2020 election.[8]

Now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must play hardball as well. Bend Senate rules just as McConnell has done to secure what he wanted. Do whatever it takes to include voting rights protection in the BBB Act and get the bill to President Biden’s desk by the end of February. It may well save the Democrats’ control of Congress and Biden’s presidency as well as our democracy. Call Schumer’s office and your senators (202-224-3121) and demand they act now!

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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://news.yahoo.com/joe-manchin-reportedly-furious-ron-150015171.html

[2] https://www.ncsl.org/blog/2017/01/13/how-the-congressional-reconciliation-process-works.aspx

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

[5] https://www.legislativeprocedure.com/blog/2021/7/20/immigration-and-the-byrd-rule

[6] https://www.npr.org/2018/06/29/624467256/what-happened-with-merrick-garland-in-2016-and-why-it-matters-now

[7] https://www.npr.org/2017/04/06/522847700/senate-pulls-nuclear-trigger-to-ease-gorsuch-confirmation

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/us/mcconnell-barrett-confirmation.html