The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Learn from the Wildfires?

Friday afternoon my friend John and I helped another friend evacuate his home to escape the wildfires raging in northern New Mexico. As I carried a few of the precious belongings he wished to save from the house to his SUV, I saw the billowing dark smoke ominously rising in the distant sky.

We had no idea how long it would take before the fire might engulf his home. But he could not wait to find out. He knew he must leave while he still could. It was truly a harrowing experience.

Later that evening another friend called John. She said the smoke at her home was making it difficult to breathe. Could she and her son seek refuge at John’s place? Their car packed with their most valued possessions, they arrived at John’s around 10 p.m. that night. Tragically, they had to leave their horses behind.

Both John’s home and my home are 25 miles or more west of the wildfires. Since the winds are blowing northeasterly, we do not appear to be in any danger. But those winds are wicked. While assisting our friend’s evacuation, gusts must have reached 60 mph at times. There’s no guarantee they won’t turn around and put us in harm’s way.

All this makes me stop in my tracks and rethink our current state. What could be more valued than a good friend willing to drop everything and come to your rescue at a perilous time? What could be more precious than a supportive community working together to save people’s homes from a deadly fire?

Yet, our political culture tends to distance us from neighbors with contrary views. Rather than seeking common ground to work on together, we try to overcome those who see things differently than we do. Just think how much better off our country would be if Democrats and Republicans, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, could work together for the common good of all Americans.

It can and does happen. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act which promotes online competition has broad bipartisan support. The bill would prevent the biggest platforms, such as Google and Facebook, from giving themselves an advantage over smaller competitors. The GOP joined the Democrats in supporting this legislation which prohibits big tech firms like Amazon from giving its in-house branded products a leg-up over other brands when someone is shopping on its site. Instead of backing their big business allies as they usually do, Republicans put the interests of the American people in fair competition first.[1]

But fires are not only erupting in our forests. In state houses across the country as well as in the halls of Congress, our politicians are throwing verbal fireballs at each other. If we are to rescue our democracy from these overheated partisan flames, this needs to stop. We need to find a way to reach well-meaning Americans with divergent views to lower the temperature and work together for the common good without sacrificing our values. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is a step in the right direction.

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.wired.com/story/american-innovation-choice-online-act-antitrust-google-amazon/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats and Our Country Owe Liz Cheney a Deep Debt of Gratitude

How ironic that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy) is leading the charge to save our democracy from Trump and his Republican enablers. Until last May, Cheney was the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.[1] She voted with Trump’s positions 93% of the time.[2] And, she’s the daughter of arch-conservative Republican icon, former Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Nevertheless, Rep. Cheney has chosen to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law in the face of extreme pressure from her own party. Last Friday the Republican National Committee voted to formally censure Cheney and her fellow Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger for joining the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The RNC’s resolution censuring the two Republicans claimed they were participating in the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”[3] Really?!

Here’s what Cheney is actually doing to save our democratic government. First and foremost, she is giving the House Select Committee’s investigation credibility that it would not possibly have been able to garner without her. When the third highest member of the House Republicans who voted in lockstep with Trump for four years bucks her president and the Party line, the country pays attention. Even diehard Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell want to know what Cheney and her committee are going to reveal to the public.[4]

In addition, Cheney’s work in the effort to get to the bottom of how and why the insurrection occurred is helping to divide Republicans and aid Democrats. Republican Leader McCarthy and most elected party officials continue to support Trump and his Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. They downplay the riot and promote authoritarian causes like banning books and demonizing the press.[5]

At the same time, the anti-Trump/pro-democracy Republican movement is slowly growing, thanks in part to Rep. Cheney’s outspokenness. Recently, it gained momentum when Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence joined its ranks.[6] As this movement grows and the Republicans become more divided, the Democrats’ chances in the November mid-term elections will also expand. When the House Committee’s hearings reach across the country on national television, swing voters who fear the demise of our democracy will side with the Democrats.

Finally, Cheney’s leadership is strengthening the committee’s resolve. According to the New York Times:

“Some of the Democrats on the committee were concerned that if the panel was too aggressive, Republicans might turn the tables on the Democrats whenever they took back control of the House. But Ms. Cheney insisted that the committee be as aggressive as possible. She said that the panel would face significant resistance from Mr. Trump’s inner circle, and that the committee would be criticized no matter what it did, so there was no reason to hold back in the face of efforts to impede its work.”[7]

I never thought I would say this, but thank you, Liz Cheney, for all you are doing 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-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/12/politics/liz-cheney-gop-conference-vote/index.html

[2] https://cowboystatedaily.com/2021/01/26/liz-cheney-voted-with-trump-more-often-than-matt-gaetz-did/

[3] https://time.com/6145764/rnc-censures-liz-cheney-adam-kinzinger-january-6-donald-trump/

[4] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/mcconnell-says-jan-6-committee-s-findings-are-something-public-n1286194

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/22/republican-authoritarianism-is-here-stay/

[6] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2022/02/08/is-trumps-hold-on-the-republican-party-getting-weaker/

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/05/us/politics/january-6-committee.html

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Liz Cheney and the House Select Committee Bring Trump Down?

(Please note: I’m taking a holiday break. This is my last post of the year. I’ll be back the first week of January. Happy Holidays!)

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol is alive and well. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader of the Senate, recently added bipartisan credibility to the committee’s work when he said, “…what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”[1]

In fact, the committee is uncovering some very damning evidence regarding Trump and his cohorts’ involvement in the attack on the Capitol. Trump administration officials, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, possessed a PowerPoint that pressed for “the Trump administration to ‘declare electronic voting in all states invalid,’ as well as to declare a national emergency and seize ballots.” The document “called for then-Vice President Mike Pence to seat alternate electors from swing states Trump lost, reject electors from those states or delay the formal count.”[2]

The January riot was a means to that end. The purpose of the violent attack was to stop the Congress from counting the Electoral College vote confirming the result of the 2020 presidential election.[3] After months of falsely claiming that massive voter fraud cost him the election, Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”[4] When they did, he was “loving watching the Capitol mob” do his bidding by disrupting Congress’s confirmation of the election results.[5]

But Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican co-chair of the House Select Committee, thinks Trump may have broken the law. Along with her colleagues on the committee, Cheney is now contemplating whether Trump criminally obstructed Congress.[6] If the committee so finds, it would likely refer the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution. And, if Trump were charged and found guilty, the Fourteenth Amendment could prevent him from ever holding public office again. Under the Amendment, Congress has the power to disqualify anyone who has already held a public office from holding any office if they participate in an “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.[7]

Until very recently, Trump appeared to be gathering steam for another run at the Oval Office in 2024. But a funny thing happened on his way back to the White House. Conservative Liz Cheney, of all people, daughter of that dastardly Republican, former Vice-president Dick Cheney, stood up for the Constitution. Finally, a Republican with moral principles may just help save the nation from the ugliest of Americans, Donald Trump.

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.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/mcconnell-says-jan-6-committee-s-findings-are-something-public-n1286194

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/jan-6-powerpoint-what-we-know-what-we-don-t-n1285910

[3] https://ballotpedia.org/Breach_of_U.S._Capitol_during_electoral_vote_count_(January_6,_2021)

[4] https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/01/06/metro/heres-what-trump-told-his-supporters-before-many-them-stormed-capitol-wednesday/

[5] https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-was-loving-watching-the-capitol-mob-white-house-official-2021-2

[6] https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-criminal-prosecution-charges-liz-cheney-january-6-obstruction-congress-2021-12?r=US&IR=T

[7] https://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment14/annotation15.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Justice Be Done?

As more and more facts regarding the January 6th attack on the Capitol come out, it’s clear that this was a coordinated conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and keep then President Trump in the White House. In addition, Trump incited the insurrection and did nothing to stop it for several hours while law enforcement officers fought the rioters and four people died.

Consider the following:

  1. For months before Election Day, Trump repeatedly told his supporters falsehoods about voting, including that Democrats had “rigged” the election. Trump ramped up the rhetoric after he lost the election, filing court challenges in battleground states unsuccessfully trying to get judges to reverse the outcome.[1]
  2. In December 2020, Trump issued a battle cry to his supporters, encouraging them to gather on his behalf on Jan. 6. On December 18th, he tweeted, “We won the Presidential Election, by a lot.  FIGHT FOR IT. Don’t let them take it away!”[2]
  3. Just two days before the attack on the Capitol, Trump declared that the Democrats are “not taking this White House — we’re going to fight like hell, I’ll tell you right now… We’re going to take it back.[3]
  4. Two organizers of the January 6th attack said they took part in “dozens” of planning meetings with members of Congress, their top staff and White House staff prior to that day. These organizers indicated that Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows played a significant role in discussions regarding the planned protest. One of the planners explained, “Meadows was 100 percent made aware of what was going on,” adding that he was “a regular figure in these really tiny groups of national organizers.”[4]
  5. Meadows discussed the appointment of an alternate slate of electors. He “loved” the plan which included a January 5th recommendation of putting the National Guard on “standby.”[5]
  6. Former Trump Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller told a House of Representatives panel that he spoke with Trump on Jan. 3. Trump wanted Miller to place National Guard troops in Washington to protect his supporters at the Jan. 6 rally.[6]
  7. At the rally, Trump repeatedly said there was a need to “fight.” He said, “Unbelievable, what we have to go through…you have to get your people to fight…We’re going to have to fight much harder, and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country because you’re sworn to uphold our constitution. Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy…because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”[7]
  8. Trump was clearly aware that the vice president was in danger that day. He had a callous disregard for Mr. Pence’s safety.[8]
  9. At the White House, advisers were trying to get Trump to do something, but he rebuffed calls to intercede. The president, advisers said, was expressing pleasure that the vote to certify Mr. Biden’s win had been delayed and that people were fighting for him. “According to public reports, he watched television happily — happily — as the chaos unfolded,” Sen. McConnell noted. “He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election. Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his own vice president.”[9]
  10. At 1:49 pm, the chief of the Capitol Police made a frantic call to Gen. Walker, the head of the D.C. National Guard, for support. Walker did not receive approval from Acting Defense Sec. Miller to send Guard troops until 5:08, over 3 hours later.[10]

The case is now in the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland. More damning facts are sure to be revealed. Trump, Meadows, and other government officials who participated in the conspiracy to overthrow our government must be prosecuted and imprisoned for treason. We all must demand that the Department of Justice ensure that justice is fully and swiftly served so, as Lincoln implored the nation at Gettysburg, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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.poynter.org/fact-checking/2021/a-timeline-of-what-donald-trump-said-before-the-capitol-riot/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/578251-jan-6-protest-organizers-say-they-communicated-with-conservative

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2021/12/08/meadows-pushed-for-alternate-slate-of-electors-following-trumps-loss-documents-show/?sh=57c9fb016795

[6] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/congresswoman-says-trump-administration-botched-capitol-riot-preparations-2021-05-12/

[7] https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2021/a-timeline-of-what-donald-trump-said-before-the-capitol-riot/

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/us/politics/trump-capitol-riot.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] https://www.npr.org/2021/03/03/973292523/dod-took-hours-to-approve-national-guard-request-during-capitol-riot-commander-s

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Trump’s Cult of Personality Still Rising

For some time now, I have thought the current conditions in the United States are fairly comparable to the 1930s in Germany. Some of you reading this, like millions of other Americans, probably believe that what occurred there could not happen here. Regardless of what you believe, I urge you to read Robert Kagan’s recent opinion piece[1] in the Washington Post and think again.

Kagan argues that in all likelihood Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. And, as the future nominee, “Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way.” He concludes that a “Trump victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it.”[2]

Kagan is no raging left-wing radical. He is a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. During the 2016 presidential election, Kagan left the Republican Party due to the party’s nomination of Trump and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Like Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, Kagan sees Trump’s increasing grip on the Republican Party as a cult of personality: “…for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements.”[3]

Trump enjoys unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Kagan notes that “They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word…They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity…Trump speaks without embarrassment on behalf of an aggrieved segment of Americans, not exclusively White, who feel they have been taking it on the chin for too long….”[4]

Perhaps most striking is the majority of the January 6th insurrectionists “were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties. Most Trump supporters are good parents, good neighbors and solid members of their communities.”[5]

Like 1930s Germans, most Americans have refused to take a fascist takeover of this country seriously enough to try to prevent it. Kagan explains “the political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015.”[6]

Many others claim they understand what’s going on, but there is nothing they can do about it. Tragically, they are frozen in their fear and complacency. While the majority of us oppose the Trump authoritarian movement, we are ignoring the horrible consequences it will reign over us if we fail to actively resist and overcome it.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ While they continue to quarrel amongst themselves over the size of the proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget,[7] their failure to deliver for the American people helps make Trump’s autocratic case that “I alone can fix it.”[8]

Democrats must come together and pass the Freedom to Vote Act as well. It protects all Americans against Republican voter suppression laws and expands voters’ rights. Americans must have clear evidence that the Democrats have their backs. Without the quick passage and implementation of these two bills Trump’s cult of personality may soon rival Hitler’s Nazi Movement.

We cannot allow this to happen. Get out in the streets. March on Washington. We must act now 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-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/us/politics/democrats-budget-infrastructure.html

[8] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/trump-rnc-speech-alone-fix-it/492557/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Time Running Out to Save Our Voting Rights

Like many Americans, I am thoroughly frustrated and disgusted with the state of our politics. It’s not just all about Trump’s corruption anymore. Finally, a bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like it’s going to make it over the goal line. But wait, even though 18 Republican senators support the legislation, a few GOP members want to drag the process out further,[1] taking away precious time from other pressing Senate business before its August break.

They don’t care. In fact, that’s their game plan. They couldn’t stop the legislation, so they’ll delay its passage to put roadblocks up against other bills, like the much larger $3.5 trillion partisan infrastructure package, they oppose. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. They can’t prevent the bipartisan bill, but if they “play their cards right,” maybe they can stop the larger legislation. The needs of their states and the country be damned!

The Democrats can play the same game. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D -CA) says the House will not vote on the bipartisan infrastructure act until the Senate passes and sends the House the larger bill as well.[2] On the one hand, it makes perfect sense as a means of pressuring Senate Democrats to get the job done. On the other hand, isn’t it better to take the $1 trillion now, get started on repairing our crumbling infrastructure, put people back to work and, at the same time, keep fighting for approval of the larger package?

All of this political maneuvering over infrastructure has pushed the critical issue of voting rights onto the back burner. This certainly seems to have been part of the Republican calculus all along. Keep the focus on roads and bridges while GOP state legislatures decimate voting rights across the country.[3] Meanwhile, they’ll work with moderate Democratic senators like Manchin and Sinema to maintain the filibuster and prevent the Senate from passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.[4]

By the time the Senate completes its work on the two infrastructure bills and takes it summer recess, it just may be too late to stop the Republican attack on our voting rights from succeeding. The results of the 2020 Census data will be released in a few days on August 12.[5] This will allow state legislatures to begin the process of redistricting using gerrymandering to give them the probability of winning a greater number of Congressional seats than they would otherwise be entitled. Since Republicans control more state legislatures, they will most likely be the winners in the redistricting process.

Unless…the Senate Democrats can pass the voting rights protection bills before Republican state legislatures enact their gerrymandered redistricting boundaries. Given what we’ve seen so far, the chanced of that happening are slim.

However, there is a bit of hope. A small group of Democratic senators has been working behind the scenes to modify the For the People Act, S.1, and save our democracy. A vote on this revised bill is expected this week before the Senate takes its August break.[6]

Still, Republicans are dead set against any federal legislation that would override the states’ right to control their elections. Their resistance to S.1 supports GOP state legislatures’ efforts to restrict Americans’ right to vote. Like the original version of S.1, the modified bill will almost certainly not receive the 60 votes needed to override a Republican filibuster.

Yet, some Democratic senators are determined to secure our voting rights. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained, “…we’re going to keep at it until we get it done.”[7] Sen. Jeff Markley, (D-Ore.) added, “We’re very aware that action has to be extremely urgent when we return” in September.[8]

Will the Senate Democrats act swiftly enough? And will they get all their colleagues, including Manchin and Sinema, onboard to prevent a filibuster from derailing this critical legislation? The answer to these questions may very well determine the fate of our democracy.

Bruce Berlin

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.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/8/us-senators-labour-on-1-trillion-infrastructure-package;

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/07/senate-bipartisan-infrastructure-deal-502752

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/pelosi-again-says-no-vote-on-bipartisan-infrastructure-deal-2021-7

[3] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-july-2021

[4] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/15/joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-filibuster-481568

[5] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/news-conference-2020-census-redistricting-data.html

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-democrats-eye-new-vote-on-voting-rights-before-summer-break-as-party-faces-pressure-to-act/2021/08/05/8501dbde-f5ea-11eb-9068-bf463c8c74de_story.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Biden Counters Trump’s Big Lie with One of His Own

On Tuesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, President Biden called out Republicans for promoting the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and Trump really won. But in doing so, Biden fostered his own Big Lie.

The President advocated that the Democrats could overcome Republican voter suppression efforts and win the 2022 elections without carving out an exception to the Senate filibuster for voting rights. All the evidence suggests Biden is wrong.

Ten Republican senators must join all the Democrats to break a filibuster and pass voting rights legislation. Yet, last month all 50 Republican senators voted to block consideration of the voting rights bills.[1]

In addition, Republican and Democratic senators are having an almost impossible time hammering out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.[2] This despite the fact that it would clearly benefit red and blue states alike. The likelihood of a bipartisan agreement on voting rights is even more daunting given Republicans’ fears that it will hurt their chances of winning future elections.[3]

Recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) proposed a voting rights compromise which included some provisions like voter I.D. that Republicans support. However, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has already indicated that he opposes Manchin’s counteroffer.[4]

To undermine the Republicans’ ever-increasing assault on our right to vote, Biden urged Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. However, he never mentioned the greatest impediment to achieving that goal, the Senate filibuster, and then failed to offer a viable path forward for enacting those landmark bills.[5]

Biden appears to naively think that an “all-out effort” to educate Americans about Republican suppression of voting rights will mobilize the public to ensure these bills are passed.[6]  Even if that were the case, and that’s a very big ‘if,’ such an effort will take precious time that we don’t have. As I noted in my blog last week (“Can We Save Our Right to Vote”), redistricting of Congressional boundaries will begin soon. And Republicans are set “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.”[7]

Fortunately, while Biden wavers, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats are pushing ahead. Schumer has called for a cloture vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for this coming Wednesday.[8] While that vote may very well fail, it will provide a clear sign of whether there are at least the minimum 10 Republican senators required to advance the bill without altering the filibuster. It may also help persuade reluctant Democratic senators like Manchin that the only way to protect our voting rights is by reforming or eliminating the filibuster.

At the same time, the man most responsible for getting Biden’s presidential campaign on the winning track, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), has called for Biden to endorse creating a carveout to the Senate filibuster for legislation like the voting rights bills that applies to the Constitution.[9] If Biden wants strong Black support for Democrats in the 2022 election, as well as for his own re-election in 2024, he had better listen to one of the most influential Black officials in the country.

The Democrats need all the help they can get. And they need it now! Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators (202-224-3121). Demand a carve out of the filibuster for voting rights and that the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act be passed and signed into law by the end of August at the latest.

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.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/us/politics/filibuster-voting-rights.html

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/12/politics/biden-infrastructure-senate-republican-opposition/index.html

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/21/politics/voting-rights-senate-republicans-trump-biden/index.html

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/election-reform-voting-bill-mcconnell-b1868124.html

[5] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/visit-philadelphia-biden-pushing-stalled-voting-rights-law-2021-07-13/

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/13/politics/voting-rights-joe-biden-trump-big-lie/index.html

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

[8] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/563177-schumer-sets-up-key-vote-on-bipartisan-deal

[9] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/07/10/clyburn-biden-filibuster-election-reform-499051

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