The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights

Time is running out for the Democrats to pass President Biden’s chief legislative program, Build Back Better (BBB). While they have been working on it for months, progressive and moderate Dems can’t seem to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Yet, they all know that if they fail to pass legislation that provides some significant benefits to the American people, their prospects in next year’s election are dismal.

Here’s a possible solution. Instead of trying to pass the whole enchilada all at once, divide the $3.5 trillion social services and tax reform bill in two:

  1. One bill would contain all the provisions from the original proposal that both sides can agree to support.
  2. The second bill would include those areas on which they cannot currently find common ground and would not be considered until after the 2022 election.

The one thing that must be included in the first bill is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1] Standing alone, voting rights bills have been blocked by Republican filibusters three times this year, most recently this week.[2] However, by inserting it in their first BBB reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republicans filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.

For the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.

Securing Americans’ voting rights would be a major achievement for Biden and his party. It would also give the Democrats a much greater chance of maintaining control of Congress in the 2022 election. They will have demonstrated that their party can deliver for the American people having passed the first half of Biden’s BBB program, voting rights and the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Plus, the Democrats would have the promise of the second half of Biden’s BBB agenda – including combating climate change and lowering drug prices — which they would introduce in 2023 after next year’s election. This should energize the Democratic base to get out the vote and increase the Dems majority in Congress. With larger majorities in each house, the Democrats would then most likely be able to pass the disputed portions of the BBB program.

Clearly, progressives would be taking a chance with this compromise strategy. But the reality is that the BBB plan that finally does pass this year will be significantly reduced in size anyway and will not include some of the progressive provisions that were in the original proposal. Given the strong opposition of Sens. Manchin and Sinema to these provisions, there is really nothing they can do about that. Splitting the bill into two and including the Right to Vote Act in this year’s portion is the best that the Democrats can hope for.

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.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/senate-voting-rights-filibuster.html

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time We Take On Corporate America

The Democrats are in a bind. If Congressional Democrats don’t come together and pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, they will almost assuredly lose both houses of Congress in the 2022 mid-term elections. Every Democratic member of Congress must understand that not only is their congressional majority at stake, but also the success of the Biden presidency, his ability to win re-election in 2024 and democracy itself. It’s that simple.

And yet, the Democrats are finding it difficult to reach an agreement. A major stumbling block is the $3.5 trillion cost of Biden’s social and economic reconciliation bill. Progressives argue they have already reduced the legislation from its original $6 trillion and, after all, the expenditure is over a ten-year period. Nevertheless, Sens. Manchin and Sinema plus some moderate House Democrats strongly object that the price is still way too high. But are they truly concerned with the price tag, or are they just doing the bidding of their corporate sponsors?

One of Sinema’s main objections to the legislation is its Medicare prescription drug proposal to lower the cost of medications.[1] It’s no surprise that Sinema has taken this position. She has received approximately $750,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. During her 2018 Senate campaign she repeatedly promised to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. But after Sinema received the industry’s generous donations, she reversed her position and opposed the plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.[2]

Manchin and several House Democrats who oppose the bill’s Medicare drug proposal also garnered very large contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.[3] The fact that 88% of all Americans support the Democratic plan to allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices on medications tells you whose interests these moderate congresspeople really represent.[4]

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to a new report, Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, 20 corporations or industry groups have spent more than $201 million in lobbying so far this year that is mostly aimed at derailing progressive provisions in Bidens’ popular tax reform and spending package. They include Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Comcast, Facebook, FedEx and Pfizer, companies many of us patronize.[5]

The report issued by People’s Action, a nationwide network of groups organizing for social justice, and Dēmos, a progressive think tank, exposes Big Money’s crippling grip on our government:

“Rich corporations are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the American people from getting what they want: a government that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. Their massive use of corporate power to frustrate the will of the people on an issue-by-issue basis is part of a larger anti-democracy effort backed by corporate America.

“As corporations seek to undermine the Biden plan’s much-needed tax provisions, historic investments in drug pricing reform, healthcare, housing, climate, and immigration reform, they are also attacking our freedom to vote. Many of the same companies combating elements of the Build Back Better proposal are also bankrolling voter suppression legislation.”[6]

We, the people need to fight back by attacking the root of the problem, corporate America. A massive boycott of a couple of these corporations just might get them off our representatives’ backs. These congresspeople must represent us, their constituents, not their corporate donors. Can we organize a large enough boycott of Amazon or FedEx to force them to stop lobbying against the public good?

Let’s give it our best shot. Spread the word. Send this blog to your email lists and your friends on social media. Encourage everyone you know to stop buying from Amazon or using FedEx. Working together, we can make a difference. It’s time to stand up for what’s right and in our best interests before it’s too late!

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.politico.com/news/2021/09/19/kyrsten-sinema-biden-drug-pricing-prescription-plan-512907

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/pharma-democrats-bribery/; https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/joe-manchin/summary?cid=N00032838&cycle=2022&type=C

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/behind-the-curtain/

[6] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Sobering Time for Reflection and Renewal

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A time for reflection as well as renewal. This year, it’s also a very sobering time for all Americans.

After four years of the Trump Administration, a significant majority of Americans were relieved when the Democrats won the 2020 elections and took over the federal government. Finally, sane adults were back in charge. Less than nine months later the air is quickly escaping from the Democrats’ balloon. And they’re having a very difficult time trying to stop the hemorrhaging and recapturing their mojo.

History indicates that “(m)odern midterm elections have resulted in an average loss of 30 seats in the House of Representatives and Senate by the political party whose president occupies the White House.”[1] Now, with the slimmest majorities in both houses, the Democrats have little more than a year to give the American electorate good reason to buck history and retain their Congressional majorities.

Meanwhile, Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that the Democrats lose their majority status in next year’s election. Most notably, Republican controlled state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws making it harder for Americans to vote.[2] These laws will disproportionately affect Democratic voters.

The most effective Democratic counter to this Republican strategy would be to unite and pass major legislation that gives American voters the programs they want and the incentive to re-elect the Dems next year. Instead, they seem to have formed a circular firing squad guaranteeing they will shoot down any chance of winning next year’s election.

A prime example is the Democrats’ debate over their $3.5 trillion budget plan. When moderate Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) calls for a “strategic pause” on enacting this huge spending bill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, replied:

“Pause on finally delivering childcare, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America? Absolutely not.”[3]

Consequently, House progressives have threatened to withhold support for the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate if they don’t get a vote on their social spending measure at the same time.[4] Failure to resolve this impasse will spell disaster for the Party and a large majority of the American people.

Democrats are divided on other priorities as well. Nothing could be more important than protecting Americans’ right to vote. Yet, Democrats can’t seem to agree on how to deal with that pressing issue in the face of the Republican onslaught against voting rights. Without overriding the Senate filibuster, Democrats know that election reform bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act are dead in the water.[5] Still, Manchin and Sen. Sinema (D-Az.) oppose eliminating, or even altering, the filibuster to protect the right to vote.

The latest critical issue that will likely be stymied by the Democrats’ internal divide over the filibuster is women’s reproductive rights. While the House will probably soon pass an abortion rights bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision permitting the implementation of an extreme Texas anti-abortion law, it will surely be derailed in the Senate by the filibuster.[6]

So, in this sobering time of reflection and renewal, the Democrats must do some deep soul searching.  The urgent issues facing Congressional Democrats – voting rights,[7] the right to abortion,[8] the $3.5 trillion social budget,[9] and the For the People election reform bill[10] – all have the support of the majority of Americans.

Will the Democrats find a way to come together and give the voting majority who elected them the programs and policies they want? And, at the same time, give themselves a much better chance of winning next year’s election. Or will they continue to fight each other, cave into Republican power plays and the anti-democratic filibuster, and allow the obstructionist minority of Americans to control the future of our country?

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.thoughtco.com/historical-midterm-election-results-4087704

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

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senator-manchin-wants-pause-democrats-push-35-trillion-spending-bill-2021-09-02/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/10/us/politics/progressives-democrats-budget.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/24/us/politics/house-democrats-voting-rights-bill.html

[6] https://newrepublic.com/article/163528/filibuster-blocking-roe-v-wade

[7] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/new-polls-suggest-broad-support-democrats-voting-rights-bills-n1277837

[8] https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/06/25/majority-of-americans-support-abortion-poll-finds—but-not-later-in-the-pregnancy/?sh=24f763015074

[9] https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/353582/public-opinion-trillion-senate-budget-plan.aspx

[10] https://www.rules.senate.gov/news/majority-news/reforms-in-the-for-the-people-act-are-widely-popular-with-both-republicans-and-democrats-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

[2] Ibid.

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: 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: 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 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: 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: The Republicans Who Stole Christmas

It’s Christmas, and the coronavirus relief bill is in limbo. While Congress is getting what it deserves – an 82% disapproval rating[1] – tens of millions of Americans are not getting the help they so desperately need.

For months, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has held up any substantial support for all those suffering due to no fault of their own. The pandemic has crushed the economy, exploded unemployment rolls, killed small businesses and crippled public services. Yet, McConnell, the head Senate Scrooge, refused to budge unless large corporations got another government handout shielding them from liability for failing to provide proper Covid-19 safety measures for their employees:

McConnell has insisted that Congress should take action to protect corporations that are alleged to engage in wrongdoing and endanger their employees, consumers and patients. Companies that don’t provide protective equipment or mandate physical distancing in the workplace, for example, would face no civil liability when their workers become sick…Even as Americans go hungry and confront homelessness, McConnell is trying to leverage the coronavirus emergency to greenlight corporate abuse, instead of helping vulnerable families.”[2]

Meanwhile, House Republicans have rejected President Trump’s proposal of $2000 to individuals as part of a coronavirus financial aid package, instead of the $600 agreed to earlier that “Trump criticized as too meager.”[3] How ironic that Trump is now the voice of reason.

And, if that weren’t enough, Georgia Republicans are doing whatever they can to ensure McConnell maintains his stranglehold on Congress and the government’s purse strings. With control of Georgia’s election process, they are now up to their old devious tricks: closing early voting locations and purging voter rolls to prevent Democratic leaning voters from casting their ballots in the January 5th runoff election which will determine who controls the Senate.[4]

While there are no easy answers to the deep divisions and injustices confronting our country, we are in the season of good will, something the Republican Party seems to know little about. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays this time of year focus on restoration, unity, hope and promise for one and all. As the new year approaches, we must keep these ideals foremost in our minds.

Even more than that, we must work together to put these ideals into practice in our communities, our work, our elections and throughout our country.  Let us vow to ourselves and each other that we shall overcome in the new year.

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.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/covid-stimulus-bill-held-hostage-mcconnell-over-corporate-get-out-ncna1251176

[3] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/house-republicans-block-bill-for-2-000-stimulus-checks-defying-trump-11608819760?mod=mw_more_headlines

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/12/24/civil-rights-groups-denounce-georgia-officials-closing-early-voting-sites-ahead; https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/12/15/georgia-it-will-be-voter-turnout-vs-gop-voter-suppression

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Going Within

My small neighborhood community in Mineral Hill outside of Las Vegas, NM, recently decided “going within” one day a week would be a valuable endeavor in these trying times when we are constantly being bombarded by outside stimuli. After one day of “going within,” I knew we were on to something.

On Wednesday I spent the day “going within.” No phones, no computers, no TVs, no interaction with anyone except for essential communication with my partner. In the morning I took stock of where I am right now. I wrote in my journal that “I’m feeling pretty good about my life.” That includes my relationships with my partner, my daughter and good friends; my health, my new home, my community, and even this blog. As I wrote, I realized how grateful I am for all that is going well in my little world.

During my afternoon of introspection, I recognized how clever it was of mother nature to require humanity to take a time out. I noted in my journal that “this is an incredible opportunity for me, everyone who has stopped the routine he or she normally follows, and the country as a whole, to go within.”

The next day a good friend called. I learned that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Apparently, he was near death.

It was a true wake-up call. How quickly our lives can change. I was reminded how important it is to live each day to its fullest.

This led me to ask: How are we doing as a society? Why have we gotten so divided? Why can’t we live together? Why are people so driven to get as much as they can for themselves with no or little concern for how the less fortunate among us who are hurting, hungry, some homeless, are getting by or not?

It’s time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. How can we inspire our country to live up to its honored values and highest potential for all Americans? We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, as well as a health crisis and an economic crisis. Our country is at a moral crossroads: Will we take the highway to a better life for all, or the low road where it’s each one out for one’s self? This is the question we will answer in the fall election. But we can’t wait. Now is the time we must pave the way for a brighter, more equitable society.

By going within during this slowdown period, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our nation’s priorities. Since we don’t have the national leadership to provide support and guidance in these troubled times, it’s up to us to find our way together.

We have many ways to get involved. Unite America (https://www.uniteamerica.org/) is working to make voting secure and accessible during COVID-19. When We All Vote (https://www.whenweallvote.org/) is focused on expanding vote-by-mail, early voting and online voter registration. Here in New Mexico, we can work on issues to revive our democracy with New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (https://nmmop.org), Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/), Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/), or a number of other non-profit organizations.

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.