The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Illusive Bipartisanship Cripple Our Democracy?

I feel like I’m living in two different worlds. Personally, I’ve gotten vaccinated, as have practically all my friends. The other night a group of us got together for dinner and reconnecting. Until then, we had been zooming with one another for over a year.

Last month my partner and I went to a public hot springs. Two weeks ago, we went out to dinner in a restaurant courtyard with another couple. Without masks! And yesterday, though masked, we were in a furniture store shopping for a new couch. After fifteen months of hibernation, our lives are finally getting back to almost normal. I’m feeling hopeful, optimistic.

At the same time, there’s a dark shadow hanging over our country. And it’s alarming. Not since the Civil War has our nation been so divided.[1] Whether the issue is forming a commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol,[2] protecting our right to vote,[3] or dealing with immigrants at our Mexican border,[4] Americans are at extreme odds with one another.

Some argue that the Democrats must forge ahead and pass legislation to resolve our pressing problems despite the opposition. Others, like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) and Kristen Sinema (D-Ariz.), contend that we must work in a bipartisan manner to truly solve these issues. But can we really bridge the huge schism in our nation or between the political parties? And, more immediately, do we have the time to reconcile our differences before our democracy is overrun by far-right extremists?

Events since last November’s election clearly indicate that we will not overcome the great divide in our nation any time soon. The Senate’s partisan failure to approve a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on our Capitol is just the latest evidence of that. With Sen. Mitch McConnell admitting he is hellbent on obstructing the Biden presidency,[5] (just as he was with the Obama administration), it’s hard to imagine any real progress toward solving the nation’s problems in a bipartisan fashion.

The truth is our deepest divisions are political, rather than based in policy issues. A great majority of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – support rebuilding our infrastructure, raising the minimum wage, providing affordable healthcare for all and more.

Biden’s best path forward may be to promote bipartisanship for a little while longer, if for no other reason than to demonstrate its futility. Manchin and Sinema apparently need more time to realize that the Republicans will never work with the Democrats on a true economic and social recovery, especially one that helps most Americans. They believe it’s not in their political interest. Just like their opposition to the bipartisan commission, Republicans are very willing to put politics above country.

The Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the bipartisan commission hopefully has helped Manchin and Sinema to see the light. Biden did learn how obstructionist the Republicans can be as VP under Obama with the Garland nomination to the Supreme Court and Obamacare, etc. So, he’s not going to be strung along forever.

Before the August recess, Biden will go for what he believes needs to be done regarding infrastructure, etc. that he can do through Reconciliation. By then, hopefully, Manchin and Sinema will understand bipartisanship is impossible with McConnell and his cohorts. Regarding voting rights and other bills that can’t be passed by Reconciliation, it will depend on these two Democrats agreeing to break the filibuster. At that point, they must understand that their continued support of the filibuster may well be a death knell for democracy. Millions of Americans’ right to vote will be in serious jeopardy due to a flood of Republican measures to suppress the vote.

Meanwhile, it’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on Biden, Manchin, Sinema and the rest of the Democrats to do what’s right and pass HR 1/S1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis voting rights bill. Once again, our democracy is being put to the test and it’s on us to save it.

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 (now RepresentUs New Mexico), 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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/19/politics/trump-divided-america-civil-war/index.html

[2] https://thehill.com/homenews/house/555147-poll-americans-split-on-jan-6-commission

[3] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-oppose-many-voting-restrictions-but-not-voter-id-laws/

[4] https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/05/03/most-americans-are-critical-of-governments-handling-of-situation-at-u-s-mexico-border/

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/joe-biden/mcconnell-says-he-s-100-percent-focused-stopping-biden-s-n1266443

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Why Are Republicans So Afraid of the Truth?

This week the House Republican and Democratic leaders of the Homeland Security Committee negotiated a deal for a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the January 6th assault on the Capitol. The agreement made major concessions to the Republicans: the panel would be evenly divided between members appointed by Democrats and Republicans, and the GOP-appointed commissioners would have veto power over any subpoena.[1]

But a balanced commission with veto power wasn’t good enough for the ‘all or nothing,’ uncompromising Republicans. Rep. John Katko, the lead GOP negotiator, urged his colleagues to support the commission bill: “This is about facts. It’s not partisan politics.” Nevertheless, only 35 House Republicans supported the bill while 175 of them voted against it.[2]

Republicans opposed the investigation despite the fact that their lives, as well as their Vice President’s life, were threatened by a deadly mob on January 6th. They argued that the scope of the bill was too narrow and had the potential to interfere with other ongoing investigations. Republicans wanted to dilute the focus on the insurrection by also examining prior violent protests against racism and police brutality, important but unrelated issues.

The truth is Republicans just wish the whole thing would disappear. For them it’s an inconvenient distraction from regaining control of Congress in the 2022 elections. According to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the minority whip, “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election, I think, is a day lost on being able to draw contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”[3]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also opposes the bill because he asserts it’s a Democratic “slanted and unbalanced proposal.” Consequently, it has little chance of gaining the Republican support in the Senate necessary to become law.[4]

In fact, Republican objections to the commission were just another subterfuge to try to sweep the attack on the Capitol under the rug. They reject the investigation because they fear two things: Trump’s supporters and the truth.

Two-thirds of GOP voters still strongly support Trump.[5] The former president forcefully opposes an independent commission investigating the January attack on the Capitol.[6] He also fears the truth.

Republicans who go against Trump are subject to his unrelenting attacks and a primary challenge by a Trump loyalist in their next election.  These officials are more concerned with holding onto their powerful jobs than they are with an attempt to overthrow our government. At the same time, they are afraid of what an investigation might reveal:

  • Did some Republican Congresspeople have prior knowledge of the attack, and/or provide assistance to the insurrectionists?
  • Was the assault planned with aid from Trump?
  • Why were the Capitol police so ill-prepared?
  • Could some Republicans be prosecuted for their roles in the attack?
  • Why was there more than a three-hour delay in reinforcements arriving at the Capitol?
  • Could the commission’s findings result in a backlash against the Republican Party in next year’s election?

Ironically, if Senate Republicans agree with most of their House colleagues and reject establishing an independent commission, they may put their party in an even deeper hole. With no bipartisan investigation, Speaker Pelosi will be free to create a select committee completely controlled by the Democrats.

Pelosi noted that “I certainly could call for hearings in the House with a majority of the members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats, but that’s not the path we have chosen to go…” However, she added, “we will find the truth…if they don’t want to do this, we will.”[7]

Sounds like the Democrats are finally getting ready to play hardball.

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 (now RepresentUs New Mexico), 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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/january-6-commission-house-approves/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mcconnell-comes-out-against-jan-6-commission-imperiling-its-chances-of-becoming-law/2021/05/19/60de1f52-b8b3-11eb-a5fe-bb49dc89a248_story.html

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/january-6-commission-house-approves/

[5] https://www.vox.com/2021/5/19/22440434/trump-mcconnell-commission-january-6

[6] https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/capitol-riot-commission-05-20-21/h_ca6833de0e88f74f757d6c9ebf0c756b

[7] https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/capitol-riot-commission-house-vote/h_cf1551703acca4dde8c307afa728c5eb