The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats Must Make a Grand Bargain

Congressional Democrats are deadlocked. House moderates want to bring the Senate-passed bipartisan, $1 trillion infrastructure bill to a vote now.[1] Speaker Pelosi and House progressives, on the other hand, insist that the Senate must approve a much larger $3.5 trillion budget resolution and send it to the House before the House will take up the bipartisan Senate bill.[2] It’s their way of trying to ensure that the bigger transformational measure makes it over the finish line as well.

But Democratic House moderates and some in the Senate believe the two bills must be dealt with separately. Sen. Joe Manchin (D.-W.Va.) recently asserted:

It would send a terrible message to the American people if this bipartisan bill is held hostage. I urge my colleagues in the House to move swiftly to get this once in a generation legislation to the President’s desk for his signature.[3]

In addition, these same Democrats, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az), feel that the $3.5 trillion is just too enormous.[4]

At the same time, the Senate is still grappling with voting rights. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) top priority when the Senate reconvenes in September is to construct a voting rights bill that all 50 Democrats will not only agree on but will also provide for a filibuster carve-out to pass without any Republican support.[5]

The Democrats fate in the 2022 elections likely depends on their ability to pass all three measures. Given all their differing perspectives, can the Democrats find a grand bargain that both their Establishment and left wings can agree on?

It’s a tall order, for sure, but here’s a possible solution:

First, Speaker Pelosi has to agree to bring up the bipartisan Senate bill for a standalone vote this week. This approach might garner some moderate Republican support in the House.[6] To avoid losing progressive backing in the House for such a vote, Senate Democrats would also consent to negotiate a final budget package between $3.0 and $3.5 trillion and pass it through reconciliation by September 20.

Second, House Democrats would agree to take up the Senate budget package and pass their version with a $3.0 trillion floor before the end of the fiscal year, September 30th. A joint committee would then work out the differences in early October for a final passage by mid-October. Providing a quick deadline would help keep progressives onboard.

Third and finally, all 50 Senate Democrats would settle on a voting rights bill to protect all Americans right to vote with a filibuster carve-out, pass it, and send it to the House for its approval within 30 days. Final passage of that bill would occur by early October.

Time is running out. Republican controlled state legislatures are already stacking the deck against the Democrats with new voter suppression legislation. America’s infrastructure is in dire need of rebuilding. An agreement along the lines outlined above would stop violations of our right to vote as well as provide a major boost to the economy and important social demands. But it will require all Democrats to compromise a little for the greater good of the nation and their party.

If the Democrats want to meet the needs of the American people and retain their majorities in both houses of Congress in next year’s elections, they must quickly find a consensus path forward.

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://www.yahoo.com/news/deeply-divided-house-democrats-battle-165019605.html; https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/pelosi-budget-package-showdown-506589

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/sinema-35t-spending-bill-506583

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-elections-senate-elections-bills-d417ab8e6db2726eb79a8f2ce28baeca

[6] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/mccarthy-bipartisan-infrastructure-bill-506465

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Save Our Right to Vote?

American democracy is on the ropes. In state after state, Republican legislatures are making it more difficult to vote.[1] At the same time, they are making it easier to manipulate election results in their party’s favor.[2] Gaining power at any cost is their only goal.

As distressing as this is, what infuriates me even more is the Democrats inability to effectively thwart these debilitating attacks on our democracy. In effect, like Nero, they are “fiddling while Rome burns.”[3]

Time is running out. This fall all 50 states will begin drawing the district boundaries for next year’s Congressional elections based on the 2020 census. Since Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats do, they very well may be able to gerrymander enough House of Representative districts to win back the majority in Congress in the 2022 elections. At which point, House Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s entire agenda.

In fact, Senate Republicans are doing just that right now.  In May they filibustered the Democrats’ bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the Capitol.[4] Republicans must have feared that discovering all the facts regarding the attack would damage them politically. Why else would they not want to learn the whole truth about the insurrection that threatened their own lives?

That same fear controls just about everything the GOP does today. Senate Republicans are blocking the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act because they are afraid that making it easier for people to vote will hurt their chances of winning elections. It’s that simple. They don’t care about Americans’ right to vote.

The Republican Party’s only concern is regaining power. Here’s how Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) put it:

“For the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all of that down to get to December of 2022 and then get in here and lead…18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done. That’s what we want.”[5]

And that puts voting rights and the future of American democracy squarely in the Democrats’ court. While most Congressional Democrats want to limit or eliminate the Republicans ability to filibuster, there are a few standing in the way, namely Sens. Manchin and Sinema. According to Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), one of the lead sponsors of the House version of the voting-rights bill, greater public pressure will raise the stakes on these Democratic senators:

“What the public pressure is doing is conveying the historical dimension of this…I think, ultimately, that’s what is going to land this plane—that people like Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, and others are going to feel the pull and push of history here. They are going to begin to put it in that context, and no member of the Democratic caucus is going to want to be on the wrong side of this historic opportunity to repair and restore our democracy at a moment of great challenge.”[6]

So, let’s all do our part. On Sunday, July 11 at 11 am, attend the rally to protect our voting rights at 106 S. Federal Place, east of the main post office in Santa Fe.

Join Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, NM Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and many others. Demand the right to vote for all Americans.

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://www.cnn.com/2021/05/28/politics/voter-suppression-restrictive-voting-bills/index.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/23/opinion/republicans-voting-us-elections.html

[3] https://grammarist.com/idiom/fiddle-while-rome-burns/#:~:text=The%20phrase%20fiddle%20while%20Rome,a%20song%20about%20the%20destruction.

[4] https://www.axios.com/jan-6-commission-senate-republicans-filibuster-40993503-9abb-484d-a4da-984eac929e88.html

[5] https://www.yahoo.com/news/gop-congressman-caught-video-saying-213740820.html

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/06/manchin-filibuster-voting-rights/619281/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Spirit of the Fourth of July

It’s the Fourth of July, the birthday of our nation. We generally celebrate Independence Day as the day 245 years ago that the American colonies declared their freedom from British rule. But this year’s Fourth feels quite different.

This year many Americans are not celebrating. Rather, like myself, they are feeling disappointed, sad, even outrage. They are experiencing a great loss, the potential demise of our democracy.

Instead of celebrating, this year we are faced with the challenge of renewing our democratic freedoms, including our sacred right to vote. While the colonists fought the British for their right to independence, today we are called to fight for democracy and our voting rights.

The latest example that our democracy is in peril occurred this past week when the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s restrictions on voting rights. Once again, the conservative court majority weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits any policy that “results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote of any citizen on account of race or color.” The court found that Arizona’s policy of invalidating ballots cast in the wrong precinct and its law criminalizing the collection of mail ballots by third-party community groups or campaigns did not violate the landmark 1965 Act.[1]

The great majority of Americans, however, disagree with the Court and the Republican state legislatures that are restricting our right to vote around the country. Sixty percent of Americans support making it easier to vote by enacting automatic voter registration.[2] Even more, 68 percent, favor HR1/S1, the For the People Act which would protect and expand voting rights.[3]

So, in the spirit of the Fourth of July, it is incumbent upon all Americans who believe in the principles of democracy to join the struggle to protect our right to vote. Around the country, we are organizing, rallying and marching under the banner of Deadline for Democracy. We are demanding that Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore our democracy. Go to https://deadlinefordemocracy.org/find-event to find an event near you.

Here in Santa Fe, our rally will be held on Sunday, July 11 at 11 a.m. It will take place at 106 S. Federal Place next to the downtown post office and feature NM Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, and other speakers. For details, go to https://act.indivisible.org/event/local-actions/163343.

If there ever was a time our country needed all of us, it is now. Stand up for your rights. Be part of a Deadline for Democracy rally. Call your senators and congressperson. We must save our sacred right to vote and rejuvenate our democracy. This is our country. Make your voice heard!

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://abcnews.go.com/Politics/supreme-court-upholds-arizona-restrictions-major-voting-rights/story?id=78182724

[2] https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/546166-majority-of-americans-back-making-voting-easier-poll

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/gop-opposes-hr-1-poll-finds-majority-republicans-support-election-reform-bill-1572166

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Republicans’ Relentless Obstructionism and the Futile Call for Bipartisanship

The Republican Party is deeply divided. On one side are the Trumpsters. While they are united in their support for former president Trump, they actually fall into two separate camps. 

On the one hand, we have the true believers, like Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who led the fight to overturn the election and return Trump to the White House. Millions of Trump faithful are in this bloc as well. Brooks claimed that Americans “have been victims of the largest voter fraud and election theft scheme in American history,”[1] without providing any evidence.

On the other hand, we have the shameless sheep. These are the Republican officials who are too afraid of Trump’s base to stand up for the truth. Since 55% of Republicans still believe the election was stolen[2] and 60% want Trump to run for president in 2024,[3] they fear being primaried by a true Trump supporter. Holding on to power is more important to them than the future of our democracy.

According to Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Trump, most of his colleagues are thinking: “I need to continue to exist in this job so that I can make an impact. I don’t have the courage or the strength or the ability to swing this party, so I’m going to just kinda put my head down and go along.”[4]

There is, however, a third group. A small minority of Republicans who do not support Trump and his lies and are willing to speak truth to power. Most prominent among them is Rep. Liz Cheney, currently the 3rd ranking Republican in the House. She recently explained, “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”[5]

Equally striking were the comments of Michael Wood, a Texas Republican congressional candidate and former Trump backer who lost a recent U.S. House runoff with just 3% of the vote. A former Trump backer, Wood noted that the Republican Party has “lost its way”:

I don’t know what we stand for…We don’t like baseball. We don’t like Coke. We don’t like NASCAR. We don’t like Hollywood. We don’t like academia. We don’t like anything. We’re just a grievance party that hates a good hunk of America and then we call ourselves patriots, and this is just a dead end.[6]

Then, to effectively prove Wood’s point, Republican Senate minority leader and Obstructer-in-chief, Mitch McConnell, declared, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”[7] For McConnell and the majority of Republicans, it’s all about obstruction and regaining power. To hell with controlling the pandemic or improving the lives of the American people.

Our democracy is floundering in large part because the Republican Party is rotting away. And because Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema are demanding unrealistic bipartisanship before they will support critical bills that can save our democracy from Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their boundless craving for all-embracing power. These Democrats are standing firm despite the fact that McConnell, Hawley, Brooks and their colleagues have made it clear that they will have none of it.

Cheney and Wood are voices in the wilderness. There are no Republican leaders able and willing to heed their warnings. The critical question then becomes: Will Manchin and Sinema grasp the deadly peril our democracy faces and put the needs of the country ahead of their idealistic bipartisan principles? We must do whatever we can to help these senators see the light and do the right thing.

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://graphics.reuters.com/USA-TRUMP/LAWMAKERS/xegpbedzdvq/

[2] https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/majority-republicans-still-believe-2020-election-was-stolen-donald-trump

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/6-10-republicans-want-trump-run-2024-think-2020-election-stolen-1581031

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/adam-kinzinger-trump-election-conspiracy-092610348.html

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/03/liz-cheney-republican-trump-election-big-lie

[6] https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/michael-wood-congressional-candidate-republican-party-nicolle-wallace-000443441.html

[7] 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: Are We in a Moment of Transcendence?

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 76th birthday at Faywood Hot Springs south of Silver City, New Mexico. That morning my partner and I stepped outside our cozy cabin and a royal blue peacock appeared less than 20 feet away. We both felt great joy seeing this majestic creature with its amazing train of gorgeous feathers that had to be over six feet long.

The peacock is a symbol of transcendence and freedom. Encountering a peacock is said to be an omen of going beyond one’s personal boundaries and being “ready to shine out.” Feeling that my life is in a time of major transition, I sensed the appearance of this peacock — on my birthday, no less — was a sign for me to get out of my comfort zone and shift into a brighter, freer state of being. In the coming weeks and months, I believe how I might do this will become clearer.

Then, on Thursday evening, I watched President Biden address a joint session of Congress on national TV. As I listened to Biden, he appeared to have received a transcendent signal similar to the one I had gotten from the peacock. He was moving beyond his previous moderate political boundaries and imploring the American people to support bold, progressive proposals on everything from the economy and infrastructure to education and climate change:

“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”[1]

In essence, Biden was saying it’s time for the nation to abandon prior theories like “trickle down” economics that had never really worked anyway. Rather, he asserted that the country needed to turn the corner to a more inclusive, optimistic future built from the bottom up.

As a nation, we are finally emerging from the shadows of a debilitating pandemic, a devastating recession, and a draconian administration. While we have not eradicated COVID, the government has made great strides in controlling it with over 230 million vaccinations since Biden took office.[2] In addition, the economy is quickly recovering with 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter of the year fueled by government aid and declining viral cases.[3] Yet, we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not want justice for all or the right to vote protected for everyone. As Biden reminded us in his address:

And if we are to truly restore the soul of America – we need to protect the sacred right to vote. More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever.
 
That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.[4]

This is America’s moment of truth. Yes, we survived the January 6th attack on our democracy. But if we are to truly transcend racial bigotry and economic injustice, and forge a new era based on fairness and compassion, we must overcome the hate, ignorance and greed that runs rampant in our country. Biden’s proposals are showing us the way. The question is: Do the Senate and the American people have the wisdom and courage to follow his lead?

Bruce Berlin, JD


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/04/28/us/biden-speech-congress

[2] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bidens-first-100-days-covid-19-jobs-foreign-policy-immigration-guns-dogs-2021-04-27/

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/29/economy-accelerates-last-quarter-484993

[4] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLtkVTzhlmHssBtdsGmFqLvdWQ

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Corporate America Joins the Battle for Voters’ Rights

It’s a cloudy, overcast day here at my home in the country outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. While many of us have gotten vaccinated and are moving on with our lives, another momentous storm is sweeping across the country.

Yes, we do seem to be slowly beating back the COVID pandemic. In fact, Dr. Fauci recently indicated that “we would approach some degree of normality as we get towards the end of the summer and into the fall, and a considerable degree of normality” by next winter.[1]  I hope he’s right.

Yet, what’s happening today in America’s corporate boardrooms is anything but normal. As I noted in my blog of April 9 (https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/), Republican lawmakers throughout the nation are doing whatever they can to gain and maintain political power. In 47 states they are making it more difficult for people of color to vote, people much more likely to support Democrats.[2]

Now, a new voice has suddenly entered the fight to protect our voting rights. Hundreds of U.S. corporations and executives, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, G.M., Starbucks and Warren Buffett, recently signed on to a two-page ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling for the defense of Americans’ voting rights.[3]

And, in the irony of all ironies, the Republicans are up in arms. Here’s how Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who knows how to talk out of both sides of his mouth better than any other politician, responded to the corporate support for voters’ rights:

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” before unbelievably adding, “I’m not talking about political contributions.”[4]

This is the same Sen. McConnell who praised the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that money is speech protected by the First Amendment and corporations are just like people who, therefore, have the right to finance election spending:

“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process.” He hailed the decision as “an important step” in “restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups.”[5]

Of course, both parties take loads of campaign contributions from corporate interests.[6] However, the Democrats are not the hypocrites that McConnell and his Republican colleagues are. They don’t accept huge donations and then tell their corporate donors to stay out of politics.

But here’s where you come in. Tell these corporate contributors to put their money where their mouths are and back up their speech with effective action.

Do the following to help strengthen corporate efforts in the fight for voters’ rights:

  1.  Check out the NYT ad at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/dealbook/ceos-voting-rights.html
  2. Write down the names of companies that you do business with or from whom you buy their products.
  3. Write/email those companies. Tell them you are a customer of theirs and you support their stance on voting rights. Write to as many companies as you can.
  4. Urge them not to donate to any candidate or elected official (state or federal) who supports state or federal efforts to restrict voting rights in any way, or who was involved in the January 6 insurrection.
  5. Insist that they only donate to candidates and elected officials (state or federal) who support HR1/S1 (the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
  6. Contact your friends and family and ask them to take the above steps as well.

Together, with Corporate America on the side of protecting everyone’s right to vote and our demanding they withhold funding of Republicans working to restrict voting rights, we can be a powerful force in the struggle to save our democracy.

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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/fauci-breakthrough-infection-covid-vaccine-b1830303.html

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021?ms=gad_voting%20laws_513381296572_8626214133_121430490955&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6-SDBhCMARIsAGbI7Ugdzt2p9ECuO9L4gAq34U9LPZvOTc2tbxNqs02ZMCZQmaEGpr038xAaAmYbEALw_wcB; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-restrictive-voting-requirements-target-minorities

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-14/corporate-america-unites-for-voting-rights-without-naming-plan; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/ceos-corporate-america-voting-rights.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/07/mitch-mcconnell-georgia-citizens-united/

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/biggest-donors

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Joe Manchin, the Filibuster and the Right to Vote

The right to vote is the central principle of American democracy. Yet how representative can a democracy be if millions of its citizens are denied the right to vote through hundreds of state voter suppression laws?[[1]]

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the only Democratic senator who is not a co-sponsor of S1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.[2] This landmark Act includes, among other provisions:

·    automatic voter registration and other steps to modernize our elections

·    a national guarantee of free and fair elections without voter suppression, coupled with a commitment to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act

·    small donor public financing to empower ordinary Americans instead of big donors (at no cost to taxpayers) and other critical campaign finance reforms

·    an end to partisan gerrymandering

·    a much-needed overhaul of federal ethics rules[3]

Most importantly, the Act would thwart virtually every voter suppression bill currently pending in the states.

Manchin supports the right to vote, but he wants the final bill to be bipartisan. Recently, he wrote, “As the Senate prepares to take up the For the People Act, we must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone’s right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws.”[4]

In an ideal world, I would agree with Sen. Manchin. But in the real world where Mitch McConnell is the intractable leader of Senate Republicans, bipartisanship is unthinkable. Not only did McConnell call S1 a “solution in search of a problem,” but he also flatly denied that GOP lawmakers were “engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever.”[5]

McConnell and his Republican colleagues choose to ignore the Brennan Center for Justice’s recent report that 361 bills to make it harder to vote have been introduced in 47 states in the first three months of this year, overwhelmingly by Republicans.[6] Still, no Republican senator has indicated any support for the Act.

Carving out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation may be the only way to pass S1 and guarantee the right to vote for millions of Americans. But Manchin asserts that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.[7]

The ball is in Manchin’s court. He can stick to his bipartisan demands, in which the Republicans clearly have no interest, and be the senator that allowed Republican voter suppression to cripple our democracy. Or he can join his fellow Democrats in supporting voters’ rights, save our democracy and not let a Republican filibuster stand in the way.

Manchin can’t have it both ways. Write Sen. Manchin at 306 Hart Senate Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20510; call his office at 202-224-3954; or email him using this form: https://www.manchin.senate.gov/contact-joe. Demand that the senator stick with the Democrats and support the right to vote for all Americans.

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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[2] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/joe-manchin-for-the-people-act_n_605cc780c5b67593e0569de7

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/for-the-people-act-senate-mcconnell-b1821867.html

[6] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-manchin-filibuster-vote/2021/04/07/cdbd53c6-97da-11eb-a6d0-13d207aadb78_story.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Stop Social Media From Undermining Our Democracy?

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s docudrama, The Social Dilemma, I highly recommend you put it at the top of your “to-watch” list. It’s a deep dive into how Facebook, Google and other social media manipulate its users (us) and what that is doing to American society.

I am a fairly regular consumer of social media. I mainly use it to promote my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, and to publish the blog you are now reading. After watching The Social Dilemma, my thinking about social media has shifted dramatically. While it provides some real benefits, I now understand that these huge companies have become an unbridled threat to our democracy.

The film brings to light that people are highly likely to believe false information on the internet, which, in turn, affects their off-screen behavior. For instance, 64% of the people in extremist groups on Facebook joined these groups because they were unknowingly seduced by information social media feeds them. By using algorithms, mathematical formulas derived from what we choose to look at on the internet, social media sends us computer messages and images that reinforce ideas and products that we have previously viewed. Algorithms often push content that ignites outrage and hate, and also amplifies biases within the data collected from our computer usage.[1]

According to an MIT study, false information on Twitter spreads six times faster than true information because people have a greater emotional reaction to fake news.[2] That’s how former President Trump was able to quickly spread his Big Lie about the election to millions of social media users. This enabled Trump to draw thousands of his outraged followers to Washington on January 6 who were willing to storm the Capitol and attempt to overthrow the government.

The Social Dilemma provides evidence of just how destructive social media is to American society in general as well. Social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt notes a “gigantic increase” in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide among pre-teen and teenage children, Gen Z, who have been on social media since mid-primary school.[3]

Haidt says that the numbers of teenage girls admitted to hospital for self-harm including cutting were stable until around 2011-13, but in the U.S. these have risen 62 per cent for 15-19-year-olds and 189 per cent for pre-teen girls; “that is horrifying…We’ve seen the same pattern with suicide,” he said. In older teen girls it’s up 70 per cent compared with the first decade of this century and “in pre-teen girls, who had very low rates [previously] it’s up 151 per cent and that pattern points to social media.”[4]

Jeff Orlowski, director of The Social Dilemma, says he feels afraid of political misinformation and concerned about “the breakdown of truth.” If people can’t agree on the truth, he notes, that puts society in jeopardy and makes it possible for democracy to fail.[5]

“We have a machine whose main currency is outrage and anger,” Orlowski concludes, “And if this is the trajectory that we’re being programmed down, if we are constantly being fed the things that made us outraged and angry — and that is our life experience and that’s what we see on a daily basis — how does it not end” in civil war or autocratic rule?[6]

Orlowski hopes his film can serve as a wakeup call that shocks the public into demanding the reforming of social media. We, the people need to lobby Congress to regulate social media just as public utilities like our electric companies are required to meet certain standards.

Rather than manipulating the public for nefarious purposes, social media must serve the public good. If Americans do not heed The Social Dilemma’s wakeup call, we do so at our own peril.

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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Dilemma

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/it-makes-you-want-to-throw-your-phone-in-the-bin-the-film-turning-teens-off-social-media-20200926-p55zhi.html

[4] Ibid

  [5] https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/09/18/social-dilemma-director

[6] Ibid.