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: The Redistricting Conundrum

Redistricting is a red-hot issue this year. Why? Because how states reset their Congressional districts as well as their state legislative boundaries in the coming months will have a critical impact on which party controls Congress and state legislatures for the rest of the decade.

Reforming the redistricting process is one of many reasons why enacting the For the People Act (H.R.1)[1] is essential to ensuring that our elections are fair and competitive. The bill takes redistricting out of the hands of partisan state legislatures by mandating states create independent redistricting commissions to draw Congressional district boundaries.

The measure would prevent both parties from gerrymandering districts favorable to their candidates. However, the Republicans control the majority of state legislatures and, consequently, would have the most to lose with the passage of H.R.1. Right now, many of those Republican legislatures are doing whatever they can to manipulate the electoral process in order to entrench their political dominance.

The most egregious example of GOP power grabbing occurred in Georgia earlier this week. The Republican-dominated State Assembly passed a bill, which Republican Governor Brian Kemp immediately signed, that “gives state-level officials the authority to usurp the powers of county election boards” and effectively change the outcome of an election.[2]

According to one commentator, “the Georgia law is part of a broader wave of GOP efforts, at the state and national level, to undermine the fairness of American elections. What happened in Georgia reveals the true face of the modern Republican Party: a far-right institution that threatens American democracy…”[3]

The For the People Act is the Democrats bold advance to rescue our democracy. It has already passed in the House. Since redistricting will occur in every state this year, the Democratic-controlled Senate must act quickly to eliminate partisan overreaching, as just occurred in Georgia. If the Senate fails to pass H.R.1, the Republicans will likely retake the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections and immediately terminate President Biden’s legislative agenda.

Here in New Mexico, redistricting was a big issue in the just completed 2021 regular legislative session as well. Unlike H.R.1, the N.M. Redistricting Act, SB 304, had bipartisan support. Fortunately, the Act bars a seven-member redistricting committee from considering party registration data in crafting new boundaries. Yet, in making its final decision, the legislature is not required to adopt one of the district maps proposed by the independent committee.[4] Though SB304 is a significant step in the right direction, regrettably, partisan considerations will likely still play a part in the Democratic-controlled legislature’s redistricting efforts.

Thus, H.R.1 is the only equitable solution to the redistricting conundrum. Until independent redistricting commissions are mandated in all 50 states, partisan gerrymandering will continue to unfairly influence our elections. We must urge our senators to support S.1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.

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.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text

[2] https://www.vox.com/22352112/georgia-voting-sb-202-explained

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=304&year=21

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Curse of the Filibuster

Senate Democrats appear to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. On the one hand, Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues are threatening to utilize the filibuster to block President Biden’s legislative agenda on democratic reform, economic recovery, infrastructure, the environment, social justice and other priorities. If the Democrats don’t curtail or eliminate the filibuster, they will fail to deliver on their campaign promises and surely be defeated at the polls in 2022.

On the other hand, if Senate Democrats do move to override the filibuster in order to pass S. 1, the For the People Act, and other critical initiatives, Sen. McConnell warns he’ll use “procedural moves to grind the chamber to a halt and make current gridlock look like ‘child’s play.’”[1] In which case, the Democrats will also likely fail to deliver concrete results and lose in the 2022 elections.

So, what are Democrats to do? Moderate Democrats, like Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are calling for returning to the old “talking filibuster” where senators actually had to stay on the floor and continuously talk to maintain a filibuster.[2] After many hours, the theory goes, the filibustering senators will tire and give up, at which point the proposed legislation would only need a simple majority to pass. Of course, there is no guarantee of their relenting. And the proponents of the measure may be the ones who give up first and withdraw their bill from consideration.

Other Democrats, including moderates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are now convinced that eliminating the filibuster is the only solution. She explained that “the likely demise in the Senate of a House voting rights bill had flipped her…to a ‘yes.’”[3]

Trying to find some middle ground, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is calling for an exception to the filibuster where any bill expanding voting matters would not be subject to the 60-vote cloture requirement.[4] But Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have not agreed to that.[5] How can any Democrat believe that the right of 50 Republican senators to filibuster is more sacred than the right of all Americans to vote? What are they thinking?

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. If the Democrats cannot agree on a way around the filibuster, S. 1 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act will not pass the Senate. Red states will then have a field day approving voter suppression laws and millions of voters, mostly minorities and youth, will lose the ability to cast their ballots in 2022. The obstructionist Republicans will again control the government. And, the American people’s voting rights and our democracy will be badly wounded, if not outright destroyed.

Earlier this week, Repair Our Democracy issued the following statement:

“Our democracy is under attack, and the For the People Act offers popular, common-sense solutions that will stop the GOP’s assault on voting rights, repair our broken campaign finance system, and root out the corruption that plagues our politics.

"With Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and with support from a vast majority of the American people, it’s time for Senate Democrats to go big on democracy reform. The Senate must move expeditiously to pass this sweeping legislation in its entirety—without delay, without breaking it up, and without the filibuster.

"Recent polling from Global Strategy Group and ALG Research shows that 83 percent of voters support the For the People Act—including 96 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans, and 73 percent of Independents.”[6]

As concerned citizens, we must all advocate for and put maximum pressure on all Democratic senators to find a way out of this potential disaster. The filibuster does not serve we, the people. Call, email or write your senators today and demand that they come together, override the filibuster and 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.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2021/03/16/mcconnell-threatens-100-car-pile-up-in-senate-if-democrats-nuke-filibuster/?sh=62d7096836a3

[2] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwLswKZkjvTzFRnzmMCSxVDtwJG

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/us/filibuster-senate-democrats.html

[4] https://www.vox.com/22260164/filibuster-senate-fix-reform-joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-cloture-mitch-mcconnell

[5] https://www.vox.com/2021/3/17/22336181/joe-manchin-filibuster-reform-41-votes-talking-jeff-merkley-senate-rules

[6] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLswLjSXKzPjRKtHlcCbxPwTTq

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Racism, the Relentless Cancer Plaguing America

I saw Judas and The Black Messiah the other night. It’s a very disturbing movie that all white Americans should be required to see. The docudrama tells the story of the FBI’s assassination of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in the late ‘60s.

More than that, the film offers insight into the ongoing black struggle for equality and justice in racist America. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with eradicating the Black Panther Party.  He stated they were “the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”[1] Yes, the Black Panthers were a militant group, but with rival gangs as well as the FBI after them, they believed they had to arm themselves.

What Hampton and the Black Panther movement were actually fighting for was good healthcare and food security for the black community. In the movie, Hampton proclaims his goal of a healthcare clinic to serve his people on the southside of Chicago. By the end of 1969 — the year Hampton was killed — the Panthers were feeding 20,000 kids in 19 cities across the country before they went to school each morning.[2]

Today the black struggle in America continues in a more political vein. Blacks, like Georgia organizer Stacey Abrams, are working overtime to register and get minorities to the polls. They know that obtaining equality and justice for their people must go through the ballot box. 

At the same time, red state Republicans are fixated on eliminating the power of people of color through gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, reducing access to the polls and other voting restrictions. In truth, it’s all just another form of American racism.

Democrats must call out Republicans for the racists that they are. Republican voter suppression laws like those being proposed in Georgia will have a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities:[3]

“Georgia legislators also want to end early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. That’s the day parishioners in Black churches traditionally vote. Sheer coincidence, no doubt. Lawmakers want to repeal automatic voter registration, too. They even want to make it a crime to give a bottle of water to someone waiting in line to vote.”[4] 

Republicans claim that these proposals are to protect against voter fraud. However, their real purpose is to make it more difficult for minorities, who overwhelmingly support Democrats, to vote. While Democrats can challenge these new restrictive voting statutes in court, there’s no guarantee they would prevail. And, even if they did, the judicial verdicts would likely come too late to affect the crucial 2022 elections.

In fact, the Democrats only practical remedy is to take the control of Congressional elections out of the hands of state legislatures. That is exactly what H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act do.[5] These bills would make our democracy more inclusive and block efforts by state legislators to make it harder to vote.

The bills passed the House without any Republican support. But they will not gain Senate approval unless the Democrats find a way around a guaranteed Republican filibuster steeped in racism. With some Democrats including President Biden still believing in the value of the filibuster, it is not clear how, or if, they will defeat Republican obstructionism.

Will the relentless plague of racism continue to cripple our nation? Or will the Democrats finally stand together, overcome the filibuster and uphold the right to vote for all Americans? It’s time the Democrats did the right thing in order 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.vox.com/2016/2/14/10981986/black-panthers-breakfast-beyonce

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/03/us/politics/georgia-voting-laws.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/03/11/congress-can-stop-these-gop-voter-suppression-laws-cold-it-just-needs-political

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Critical Fight to Save Our Democracy

As vital as the COVID relief bill is to the health and wellbeing of the American people, so are the For the People Act[1] and the 2021 Voting Rights Act[2] to the survival of our democracy. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported:

REPUBLICANS’ WAR on democracy is gaining steam. Unable to persuade a majority of voters to vote for their presidential standard-bearer or Senate candidates in some key races, many have decided that instead of trying to compete in a free and fair vote they will make the contest less free and less fair. Republican state lawmakers are introducing voter-suppression bills all over the country.[3]

On February 8th, the Brennan Center for Justice published its report on Voting Rights. It detailed how serious this war on democracy really is:

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).[4]

Fortunately, the pro-democracy forces are not idly sitting back and watching these attacks on our right to vote: “To date, thirty-seven states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 541 bills to expand voting access (dwarfing the 188 expansive bills that were filed in twenty-nine states as of February 3, 2020). Notably 125 such bills were introduced in New York and New Jersey” alone.[5]

Nevertheless, the odds are against the pro-democracy factions. Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats do. Those legislatures are now working to gerrymander more than enough Congressional districts to take back the House of Representatives in 2022.[6] If they prevail, the Biden administration will be obstructed by a hostile House from doing almost anything to help the American people. Just like the Republicans did to the Obama administration when they regained the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

This is why enacting HR 1 and the Voting Rights Act this year is critical. These new laws would take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures. HB 1 requires states to adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purpose of drawing Congressional districts.[7]

Voters’ rights would be protected under these new statutes as well. HB 1 prohibits states from restricting an individual’s ability to vote by mail. The bill would also mandate that states make online voter registration available and establish 15 consecutive days of early voting for at least 10 hours a day, among numerous other provisions making it easier and safer to vote.[8]

We must do our part to ensure our rights as voters are protected. Write, call or visit your senators and Congresspeople. Urge them to do whatever it takes to pass these laws before it’s too late. That may mean all 50 Democrats voting to eliminate or alter the filibuster, which the Republicans will surely try to use to block these bills.

Still, the Democrats have an “ace in the hole.” A simple majority of the Senate could “carve out” election-reform legislation from the filibuster. That is the Democrats could vote to exempt any bill that expands voting rights from being subject to a filibuster, which Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has already proposed. That would preserve the filibuster for all other legislation while allowing Democrats to pass fundamental democratic reforms at a time when democracy has come under attack from the right.[9]

If the Democrats want to save our country from oppressive, minority rule for the foreseeable future, this is the step they must take. The survival of our democracy hangs in the balance.

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://democracyreform-sarbanes.house.gov/sites/democracyreform.house.gov/files/SIMPLE-SECTION-BY-SE CTION_H.R.-1_FINAL.pdf

[2]https://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights%20Advancement%20Act%20one%20pager.pdf

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/georgia-voter-suppression-bills-hr-1/2021/02/24/0c283eba-76e7-11eb-9537-496158cc5fd9_story.html

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

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/02/democrats-need-hr-1-and-new-vra-protect-party/617987/

[7] https://democracyreform-sarbanes.house.gov/sites/democracyreform.house.gov/files/SIMPLE-SECTION-BY-SECTION_H.R.-1_FINAL.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] https://www.vox.com/22260164/filibuster-senate-fix-reform-joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-cloture-mitch-mcconnell; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/democrats-biggest-decision-nuking-filibuster/617854/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: To Save Our Democracy, Defeat Republican Racism

Racism is alive and well in America. And it’s what keeps the Republican Party ticking. Donald Trump, the party’s racist-in-chief, has made sure of that.

But Trump did not initiate GOP racism. In his new book, It Was All a Lie, Stuart Stevens, a life-long Republican operative, illustrates how racism has long been a central theme in the modern GOP playbook.[1] From Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation to Reagan’s “welfare queens” references to Trump’s command to the white supremacists Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by,” Republicans have rallied their supporters with racist rhetoric for decades.[2]

The Republican Party is all about power at any price. Since playing the race card works in America, it has had no problem using racism to build support and gain power. Consequently, over 80% of Republicans are white compared to less than 60% of Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.[3]

At the same time, the GOP is actually losing a considerable number of its establishment-type followers due to Trump’s lies about the election and his promoting the insurrection against Congress.[4] As a result, the party is now dominated by Trump’s racist base. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line, like the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, is censured or labeled a traitor by the party.[5]

Consequently, the GOP has become a racist, immoral cult, that employs anti-democratic tactics to gain control of government. And many red states are now implementing more voter suppression measures targeted at minorities to consolidate power:

“Republicans have introduced some 165 proposals in 33 states this year that would make voting more difficult. These include imposing new voter-identification laws, rolling back access to mail balloting and early-voting periods, and adding new hurdles to the voter-registration process.”[6]

In addition, red state legislatures are using gerrymandering to further solidify their clout. Taking the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan legislatures has never been more critical.

Ron Brownstein’s recent article in The Atlantic (a must read) clarifies just how urgent this matter is and what needs to be done about it. He explains that Republicans “will likely return to power and control politics for the next decade or more,” if the Democratic Congress fails to pass HR 1 and a new Voting Rights Act (VRA) this year:

“Given the likelihood that, absent federal intervention, red states will enact severe gerrymanders and new obstacles to voting, the decision about whether to end the Senate filibuster to pass these two bills could shape the future of American politics more than anything else Democrats do in the next two years.”[7]

Congress should have the COVID relief bill on President Biden’s desk before the end of March. Once that is done, HR 1, the For the People Act,[8] and a strong VRA must be enacted into law before Congress’s August recess. In order to ensure government of, by and for the people, we all must put maximum pressure on Congress and the Biden administration in the coming months. Write or call your senators and representatives and the White House. Attend their town hall meetings this spring. Let’s make our voices heard loud and clear.

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.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/02/it-was-all-a-lie-review-trump-republican-party

[2] https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-29/asked-to-condemn-white-supremacists-trump-tells-proud-boys-hate-group-to-stand-by

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

[4] https://www.bostonherald.com/2021/01/13/republican-voters-leaving-party-after-pro-trump-mob-stormed-capitol/

[5] https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/republican-groups-censure-party-lawmakers-who-voted-impeach-convict-trump

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/02/democrats-need-hr-1-and-new-vra-protect-party/617987/

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.commoncause.org/our-work/constitution-courts-and-democracy-issues/for-the-people-act/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Disgraced GOP and the Path Forward

In my last blog, I wrote that “the Republican Party will clearly be on trial” at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing. With Saturday’s vote to acquit Trump, 43 Republican senators failed our democracy and the American people.

During the impeachment trial, the Democrats presented an overwhelmingly convincing case that Trump incited the insurrection against Congress. Earlier in the week, polls showed that 56% of the American people believed Trump should be found guilty, while only 44% thought he should be acquitted.[1] At the same time, however, 69% of Republicans indicated they were less likely to support a senator who votes to convict Trump.[2] That is why self-serving Republican senators voted to protect their re-election prospects rather than preserve American democracy.

On Friday, however, new evidence put that result in doubt. According to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, Trump knew in real time that Vice President Pence was in life-threatening danger from the mob attacking the Capitol. But Trump did nothing to protect his vice president or Congress because he was solely focused on halting the certification of the election.[3]

Then, it came to light that Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, called Trump while the rioters were trying to break into his office. McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the MAGA mob. Lawmakers later briefed by McCarthy indicated that Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” When Trump refused to intervene to stop the riot, McCarthy yelled at him, “Who the f—k do you think you’re talking to?”[4]

None of this mattered to those spineless 43 Republican senators. A great many of them actually believed Trump did incite the insurrection and probably would have voted to convict the former president in a secret ballot. Instead, they hung their vote on a technicality, thus condoning presidential treason in the final weeks in office. These senators claimed it was unconstitutional to try and convict a former president for impeachable offenses even though almost all legal scholars from across the political spectrum found it is constitutional.[5]

So, where does that leave our country today? One of our two major political parties is controlled by Trump loyalists. Representing approximately three-quarters of the Republican Party, they are “enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another.” Their party is “antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.”[6]

As a result, the Republican Party is shrinking. In January, nearly 140,000 people in 25 states left the Party.[7] According to a recent Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans now approve of the GOP, down from 43% in November.[8] With the great majority of Senate Republicans voting to acquit Trump, the abandonment of the Party will only grow.

In fact, the anti-Trump wing of the Party is already laying the groundwork for possibly establishing a center-right, third party. Recently, over 120 Republicans met on Zoom “to discuss the breakaway party, including former elected Republicans and government officials who worked under both Bush administrations, Reagan’s administration and even Trump’s administration.” These Republicans are “unhappy with the party’s failure to stand up to Trump’s alleged attempts to undermine democracy.”[9]

Still, the authoritarian wing of the Republican Party has been building for many years. Right-wing Republicans have been gerrymandering Congressional districts, suppressing voters’ rights and using other anti-democratic tactics for decades.

We must strengthen our resolve to defeat this spreading neo-fascism before it is too late. We must demand that Congress pass HB 1, the For the People Act, to protect and expand voter access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of Big Money in politics and other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy.[10] Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to reach your senators and (202) 225-3121 for your House members.

At the same time, we must amend the Constitution to ensure that another outgoing president who commits impeachable offenses can be tried and held accountable even after he or she has left office.

Honest and open-minded Americans of all stripes, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, must stand up for our democratic values. We must rise above party, come together and protect 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.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/us/politics/trump-polls-impeachment.html

[2] https://www.vox.com/2021/2/10/22276210/trump-impeachment-trial-poll

[3] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/tuberville-trump-knew-pence-evacuated-capitol-tweet.html

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/mccarthy-snapped-trump-refused-help-000326514.html

[5] https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000177-2646-de27-a5f7-3fe714ac0000

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/12/stop-trying-save-gop-its-hopeless/

[7] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/538199-nearly-140000-voters-left-gop-in-25-states-in-january

[8] https://news.gallup.com/poll/329561/gop-image-slides-giving-democrats-strong-advantage.aspx

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/02/11/report-more-than-120-republicans-in-talks-to-form-anti-trump-political-party/?sh=562b7b524b51

[10] https://legiscan.com/US/bill/HB1/2021

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Senate Republicans Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The long-awaited, second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins in just a few days. While Trump is the sole defendant in this case, the Republican Party will clearly be on trial as well.

Senate Republicans must decide: Will they vote to convict Trump and reaffirm the declaration of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, “that government of, by and for the people, shall not perish from the earth”? Or will they vote to acquit the worst president in our history and renounce the bedrock democratic principle that No one is above the law.

The House Democrats will present a very strong case before the Senate that Trump did, in fact, incite an insurrection against the government. If the trial were decided on the facts and senators could cast a secret ballot, Trump would very likely be found guilty. Unfortunately, neither option is what will take place.

The Republicans want to avoid the evidence against Trump at all cost. Some have already admitted that Trump is, at least in part, responsible for the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Instead, they are dismissing the case by claiming that it is unconstitutional to impeach and convict a president once he has left office. Even though “most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.”[1]

However, a primary reason for the impeachment trial after Trump has left office is to bar him from holding public office in the future. “If impeachment does not apply to former officials,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service brief, “then Congress could never bar an official from holding office in the future as long as that individual resigns first.”[2]

Another compelling argument that the Senate must be able to conduct an impeachment trial after the president has left office is exemplified by Trump’s own actions. If an ex-president cannot be tried and convicted, then he or she will have free reign to do the most egregious, treasonous acts just before leaving office. When, by design, there is no time for a trial. That is exactly what happened here.

Senate Republicans cannot hide from the truth or use the Constitution as an excuse. The evidence will show that Trump agitated his ardent supporters by continuously, falsely asserting that the election was stolen. He tried again and again to have state officials, like the Georgia Secretary of State, and the courts overturn the results. And, when all else failed, Trump conspired with his cronies to incite an assault on Congress, after taking measures to leave the Capitol defenseless.[3]

If Senate Republicans fail to convict Trump, their party will be dominated by a disgraced former president and his immoral ways for the foreseeable future. An outcome many of them would like to avoid since it will portend a great many conservative voters abandoning their party, as will numerous donors.[4]

But, if Senate Republicans somehow find the nerve to convict Trump, their party will split apart and many of them will be primaried by Trump-backed candidates. Which is precisely why they are unlikely to convict him. And it is why they find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

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.npr.org/2021/01/29/961330810/there-is-precedent-for-trying-a-former-government-official-established-145-years

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/02/02/could-be-smoking-gun-trumps-january-6-treason

[4] https://www.bostonherald.com/2021/01/13/republican-voters-leaving-party-after-pro-trump-mob-stormed-capitol/; https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/534343-republicans-scramble-to-contain-fallout-as-donors-freeze-contributions

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Time to Grow a Spine, and Fast

About 140 officers were injured in the Capitol riot on January 6, according to reports by police officials and federal prosecutors: “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”[1] Five people died including one police officer. It was a tragic day in American history.

While Trump’s rebellion against our democracy demands that he be convicted at his impeachment trial next month, he most likely will not be. Though many Republican senators might like to vote to convict him, they are too afraid of Trump’s base turning against them and being primaried in their next election. The party of Lincoln has shattered any moral compass it once had. In other words, they have no spine.

Unfortunately, the impeachment trial will in all probability further divide the country. While there may be a few fence-sitters who might be swayed by the actual facts of what happened that day and the weeks leading up to it, everyone on either side of the divide will only get more incensed by the political drama.

That does not mean that the Democrats should not proceed with the trial. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, explained, “We need to make a record — a record of fact, not just for our current deliberations, but for history.”[2]

While the senators are the sworn jurors, it is the American people who will ultimately decide Trump and the Republican Party’s fate. For that, we need the whole truth presented in a nationally televised trial.

The Democrats must clearly and convincingly demonstrate to the nation that Trump tried to overturn a free and fair election by inciting insurrection against Congress and the U.S. Constitution. If Senate Republicans fail to uphold the Constitution and convict him, then the party will lose even more voters than the tens of thousands who have already deserted it.[3]

I believe the Democrats will make their case. “This is much, much more serious than anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime and it’s really the purpose of having articles of impeachment in the Constitution,” noted conservative-leaning Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).  “We want to make sure that no one ever does this again, never thinks about doing this again — sedition and insurrection.”[4]

There’s still a slim chance that the Senate will find a way to bridge the gulf between the two sides. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is proposing a bipartisan resolution that he believes would have much the same effect as a conviction. It would condemn Trump and lay the foundation to keep him from becoming president again under the terms of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 of the amendment holds that no government official can hold office “who, having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” [5]

Kaine’s resolution would only require a majority vote of the senators. The question is would such a resolution without a conviction be upheld when Trump ultimately challenges it in the Supreme Court.

If the Senate votes not to convict Trump, it will, once again, expose the Republicans’ moral bankruptcy, further tearing the party apart. Trump will continue to lead his diminished base, while President Biden and the Democrats will work tirelessly to unify the rest of the country around their agenda to eradicate the pandemic and put America back to work. But they will only have about 20 months before the 2022 election to do it.

The Democrats must grow a spine and move swiftly to enact their bold program. They must demonstrate to the American people that their policies are working for the common good and that the country is getting back on the right track. Only then will the ultra-conservative, immoral wing of the Republican Party lose its power to retake the government. It’s up to all of us to see that the new administration succeeds, democracy prevails, and Trump is banished once and for all.

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/local/public-safety/police-union-says-140-officers-injured-in-capitol-riot/2021/01/27/60743642-60e2-11eb-9430-e7c77b5b0297_story.html

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-consider-impeachment-alternatives-censure/2021/01/27/fdfd9b6c-60bd-11eb-afbe-9a11a127d146_story.html

[3] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/536113-tens-of-thousands-of-voters-drop-republican-affiliation-after-capitol

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-consider-impeachment-alternatives-censure/2021/01/27/fdfd9b6c-60bd-11eb-afbe-9a11a127d146_story.html

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democracy Survived and the Fight Rages On

The Trump era was truly terrible, yet, in the end, there were some significant silver linings. Most importantly, our democracy survived after being severely tested. Like many Americans, I doubted whether the country would have made it through another four years of Trump’s corrupt, autocratic rule, enabled by a kowtowing Republican Party.

In fact, Trump’s regime was a wake-up call. If we want our democracy to endure, a large majority of Americans now understand that we must do more to protect and strengthen it. We came very close to losing our democratic republic. The next time an authoritarian politician threatens our nation, we might not be so fortunate.

In the last few years, social and political activism has skyrocketed.[1] Much of that was a backlash against the disgraced bully who just departed Washington. As a result, Biden carried Georgia and Arizona, two states the Democrats had not won since the 1990s. The Democrats also captured three Senate seats from those two states, giving them control of the upper chamber. We owe a great debt of gratitude to grassroots activist groups like Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA)[2] and Fair Fight in Georgia.[3]

While this is a time to celebrate the beginning of a new Democratic administration and Senate majority, we must be clear that the struggle for the future of our country is far from over. You have to look no farther than the current battle between Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer over the filibuster to see how difficult that fight will continue to be.

For the Senate Democrats to agree that they will never vote to eliminate the filibuster, as McConnell insists, would give the Republicans veto power over Biden’s legislative agenda. McConnell’s argument to maintain the filibuster is based on the need for minority rights, and, at the same time, quite cynical, almost laughable. Still, he does have a point. Afterall, the minority party represents millions of Americans whose voices should be heard. But what rights did McConnell afford the Democrats when they were in the minority? Absolutely none!

As majority leader during the last six years, McConnell blocked hundreds of the bills favored by the minority Democrats from ever being considered, let alone voted on by the Senate. Many of those bills even had bipartisan support. Having experienced how McConnell arbitrarily blocked their initiatives, including an Obama Supreme Court nomination, Senate Democrats are justifiably rejecting McConnell’s demands.[4]

At the same time, McConnell has put the Democrats in a bind. Since the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the two sides must come to a written understanding on how the new Senate will operate. Until there is an agreement on a Senate organizing resolution, the Senate will continue to operate under the previous resolution which gave control of the chamber to the then-majority Republicans. Senate Democrats are livid at yet another McConnell power-grab and strongly support Sen. Schumer’s refusal to grant his requirements.[5]

So, as elegant as Biden’s call for unity was in his inaugural address, the prospects are not very good. Moving America forward cannot not be sacrificed on the altar of unity. Biden and Congressional Democrats must do what we elected them to do: Get the pandemic under control; get Americans back to work and school; and a host of other essential priorities. If they fail, the voters will turn back to the obstructionist Republicans in 2022. We must do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

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


[1] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/04/trump-has-turned-millions-of-americans-into-activists.html

[2] https://bluetent.us/arenas/campaigns-elections/arizona-went-blue-thanks-to-latino-grassroots-LUCHA-election/

[3] https://fairfight.com/

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/21/politics/senate-filibuster-democrats-republicans-power-sharing/index.html

[5] Ibid.