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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.wired.com/story/american-innovation-choice-online-act-antitrust-google-amazon/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never thought I would say this, but thank you, Liz Cheney, for all you are doing to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Turning the Corner?

The popular consensus until now has been that the Democrats are in deep trouble and will likely get hammered in the coming November elections. Considering their inability to pass the Build Back Better social reforms bill or voting rights protections and Biden’s low polling numbers, the Democrats clearly looked like big losers come next fall. Then suddenly, the winds of change appear to be turning in their direction.

One of the main issues that the failed voting rights legislation addressed was partisan gerrymandering.  Republican controlled state legislatures have been drawing House district lines that reduce the number of districts that favor Democrats. Since the GOP only needs to flip five seats to take control of the House, their gerrymandering efforts seemed to be getting the job done.

But the Democrats have been fighting back in the courts and winning. In fact, according to the L.A. Times, “when all is done, it’s even possible Democrats could emerge with a slight gain compared with the current maps.”[1] For example, the Ohio State Supreme Court struck down the Republican legislature’s partisan redistricting map.[2] And, on Friday the North Carolina Supreme Court did as well.[3] The Democrats’ chances of holding onto the House majority are clearly improving.

Another recent development that should help the Democrats next fall is Biden’s upcoming pick of a black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. While Blacks’ support of the Democratic Party has been waning since the 2020 election, Biden’s naming a black woman to the Court will likely reverse that trend. Republican opposition to this nomination will have racial overtones which will further motivate Blacks to get out the vote and defeat GOP candidates at the polls.

A third cloud looming over the Republicans’ election prospects is their response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. This week the Republican National Committee formally censured the two members of their party, Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger, who serve on the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The RNC censure accused their two colleagues of “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”[4] Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority (72%) of Americans, including 45% of Republicans, believe the people involved in the attack on the Capitol were “threatening democracy.”5

Many GOP lawmakers are now downplaying what happened on January 6. The House Select Committee will soon hold televised hearings to lay out to the nation exactly what occurred then and leading up to that day. Will swing voters in November want to support those Republicans who not only refuse to acknowledge the truth regarding the attempted coup, but also continue to back Trump who is plotting to do it again?

Finally, Biden and the Democrats have a positive record that should increase their electoral fortunes. The recent tremendous rise in employment figures along with the great reduction in omicron cases give voters reason to stick with the Democrats. Of course, a lot can and will happen in the nine months until the election. But the Democratic picture is certainly brighter today than it’s been in quite some time.

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.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2022-01-21/state-courts-rein-in-gerrymandering-a-help-to-democrats-essential-politics

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/04/north-carolina-congressional-map-struck-down-00005974

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/04/politics/liz-cheney-adam-kinzinger-censure-rnc/index.html

[5] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/majority-americans-jan-attack-threatened-democracy-poll/story?id=81990555

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Signs of Hope in the New Year

While 2021 was a very challenging year in many respects, the new year is bringing some hopeful signs of better days ahead for restoring our democracy. When times look bad, it’s good to have reason for hope to keep us all going.

It has been a full year since the violent attack on our nation’s Capitol which killed five people and seriously injured over 100 police officers. More and more Americans are wondering whether those who conspired to overthrow our government will ever be held accountable.

Hope in the Department of Justice

On Wednesday, the day before the first anniversary of the insurrection, Attorney General Merrick Garland assured the nation that, “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”[1] That means Donald Trump, the conspirator-in-chief, is not out of the woods and may very well be prosecuted and brought to justice.

Hope in President Biden

The next day, President Biden “ripped into Trump’s subversion of democracy and the refusal of most Republicans to stand up to the former president’s lies. In what was by far the most passionate, forceful and effective speech of his presidency, he moved democracy to the center of the nation’s political debate,” according to Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne Jr.[2]

Biden declared, “You cannot love your country only when you win…You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.” And he placed the responsibility on “all of us…to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy…(and) keep the promise of America alive.”[3] Hopefully, Americans of all political stripes will respond to Biden’s call. And it appears that they are doing just that.

Hope in Former Trump Administration Officials

A growing number of Republicans are working to prevent both another Trump presidency as well as more political violence undermining our democracy. Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary in the Trump White House, is helping to organize this effort. In the White House on January 6th, she observed that Trump was “gleeful” watching his supporters attacking the Capitol.[4] Another key organizer, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, Miles Taylor, also co-founded the Renew America Movement, a group to support candidates across the political spectrum that identify as being in favor of reforms to strengthen democracy.[5]

Meanwhile, numerous members of former Vice President Pence’s staff are cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. They include former chief of staff, Marc Short, as well as his former national security adviser, Keith Kellogg. In addition, multiple tiers of Pence’s staff who were at the White House on Jan. 6 have been “integral” in helping the committee flesh out what happened.[6]

The committee, of course, is the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The nation is being well served by its members and their work. Just think where the committee might be now due to Republican obstructive tactics, if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had kept the rest of his Republican picks on the committee after Speaker Pelosi refused to accept Trump allies Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.[7]

Hope in former Republican officials

Staunch conservative, Bill Kristol, a former adviser to President Reagan, has formed Defending Democracy Together with other Never-Trump Republicans. The organization is dedicated to defending America’s democratic norms, values, and institutions. It recently hired lobbyists in an attempt to rein in presidential emergency powers, refine the federal government’s war powers and clarify Congress’s subpoena authority.[8]

Even ruthless Republicans like Karl Rove are denouncing the attack on the Capitol and demanding justice. He recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

To move beyond Jan. 6, 2021, we must put country ahead of party…There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.[9]

Hope in Liz and Dick Cheney

The only Republican official who participated in the Capitol commemoration of the January 6th attack this past Thursday was Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice-chair of the Select Committee. Ironically enough, she brought her dad, Dick Cheney, along with her. The former vice-president, you may remember, was the mastermind of the Bush Administration and its fabricated justification for the immoral Iraq War.

Here’s what the elder Cheney had to say:

I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.[10]

Hope for Democracy

A pro-democracy movement is growing across the political spectrum. The struggle for the soul of America is far from over. Hopefully, this movement will prevail and, as Lincoln pronounced in the midst of the bloody Civil War, our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[11]

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.c-span.org/video/?c4994302/attorney-general-pledges-january-6-attack-perpetrators-held-accountable

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/06/biden-tells-truth-best-speech-his-presidency/

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/stephanie-grisham-trump-gleefully-watched-jan-6-1280113/

[5] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/06/former-administration-officials-block-trump-526623

[6] https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/mike-pence-staff-giving-goods-021846346.html

[7] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/21/politics/nancy-pelosi-rejects-republicans-from-committee/index.html

[8] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/07/anti-trump-group-led-by-bill-kristol-hires-lobbyists-to-push-presidential-power-reform.html

[9] https://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-jan-6-responsibility-anniversary-riot-storm-capitol-trump-protesters-investigation-11641417707

[10] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/01/06/dick-cheney-surprise-visit-capitol-jan-6-riot/9122457002/

[11] https://legacyneuro.com/gettysburg-address/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following:

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid.

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Could Court’s Anti-Abortion Ruling Backfire on Republicans?

Republican-controlled legislatures across the country are enacting laws suppressing voters’ rights and highly gerrymandering legislative districts to secure an unfair advantage in next year’s midterm elections. At the same time, in a recent Mississippi abortion law case Republicans are advocating for the Supreme Court to further limit abortion rights, or to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely.

So, what happens if the Court does further limit a woman’s right to an abortion next year? That ruling could very well create a backlash so strong that the Republicans’ efforts to skew the election in their favor is wiped out entirely.

Earlier this year Americans’ support for abortion in all or most cases was at 80%, according to Gallup.[1] And, a November Washington Post-ABC poll found broad agreement that women and their doctors should make decisions about abortion rather than being regulated by law. Overall, 75 percent indicated such decisions should be left to the woman and her doctor, including 95 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans.[2]

People on both sides feel very strongly about this issue. The Court’s decision in the Mississippi case next June is likely to motivate a great many voters. Most Democratic candidates will be promising to pass laws nationally and/or within their states legalizing abortion, while most Republican candidates will be supporting the Court’s decision further limiting or outlawing abortion. Given public opinion, championing a woman’s right to choose may well be a winning ticket in a good number of races.

While there is reason to hope that energizing pro-choice voters may be the silver lining to the Court’s anticipated anti-abortion decision, our voting rights still need protection.

The right-to-choose movement cannot guarantee voting rights. Time is running out to get voting rights protection implemented in all states before next year’s election. Urge your representative (Call 202-225-3121) and senators (Call 202-224-3121) to pass the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement bills now. The fairness of our elections as well as the future 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://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/11/30/how-americans-really-feel-about-abortion-the-sometimes-surprising-poll-results-as-supreme-court-weighs-overturning-roe-v-wade/?sh=60971f0c36c9

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/16/post-abc-poll-abortion-supreme-court/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Asleep at The Wheel?

While Senate Democrats continue to haggle over Biden’s Build Back Better package, Republicans across the country are plotting to make America a permanent one-party, authoritarian state. As Zack Beauchamp, senior correspondent at Vox, observed:

“We are suffering from the same rot that has brought down democracy in other countries: a party that has decided it no longer wants to play by the rules and that would instead prefer to rule as authoritarians rather than share power with its opponents…The escalation in authoritarian behavior since January 6, from both national and state Republicans, shows that things are worse than even some pessimistic observers have feared…It’s happened elsewhere. It can happen here, too.[1]

Though Democrats are well aware of Republican efforts at one-party domination, they don’t seem to have the will or the courage to do anything about it. In state after state Republican-controlled legislatures are enacting laws suppressing voters’ rights, particularly those of communities of color,[2] and highly gerrymandering legislative districts in their favor.[3]

Most recently, Georgia’s General Assembly approved a redistricting map giving the GOP dominance in nine of its fourteen congressional districts even though the state narrowly went for Pres. Biden last year and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in January.[4] Other GOP state legislatures are gerrymandering congressional districts to their extreme advantage as well. They include Ohio, Texas, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.[5]

Senate Republicans have consistently filibustered Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights and eliminate political gerrymandering.[6] Since Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema strongly oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, Senate Democrats have only one path to passing voting rights legislation. That is, inserting the Freedom to Vote Act[7] and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act[8] into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which the Democrats can pass with a simple majority. A budget item to provide funding for the states to implement the provisions of these acts would also be needed to meet budget reconciliation bill requirements.[9]

Some senators might object to this approach arguing that the Senate parliamentarian could rule that these voting rights bills do not qualify for inclusion in a reconciliation bill. However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory and can be overruled by the presiding senator, which in this case would be Democratic Vice-president Kamala Harris.[10]

Our democracy is at stake. Time is running out to get voting rights protection implemented in all states before next year’s election. Democrats must include voting rights in the BBB and pass the Act before the end of the year. Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future 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://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/6/15/22522504/republicans-authoritarianism-trump-competitive

[2] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/10/republicans-are-passing-rigged-maps-and-democrats-are-running-out-of-time-to-stop-it/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/us/politics/republican-redistricting-swing-states.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/22/total-asymmetric-warfare-georgia-gop-redraws-political-map-us-senate-dems-do-nothing; https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/results/state/georgia/president

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/us/politics/republicans-2022-redistricting-maps.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/03/senate-republicans-voting-rights-bill-john-lewis

[7] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis_Voting_Rights_Act#:~:text=The%20John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights,Holder%20and%20Brnovich%20v.

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

[10] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is Passing the Build Back Better Act The Ticket to Democrats Winning in 2022?

Democrats appear to be banking on passing Pres. Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) package as their ticket to winning next year’s midterm elections. The House’s approval of the BBB Act on Friday does give the Democrats momentum toward that goal. Still, getting the bill through the Senate will be challenging. And, while I believe it will finally pass, the shrunken BBB Act by itself will most likely not give Democrats the huge boost they will need to maintain control of Congress in next year’s elections.

The good news for the Democrats is they have a great deal more to run on than the BBB Act. Last March they passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. That legislation provided needed help to tens of millions of people, reducing high levels of hardship, helping school districts address student learning loss, and bolstering the economy. Among other pluses, it expanded unemployment benefits, health coverage, child tax credits, food support and housing assistance.[1] Despite all the hardship Americans were undergoing, not one Republican voted for this urgently needed relief act.[2]

On top of that, the Democrats recently enacted a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This legislation was critical to repairing and upgrading our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure. While some Republicans did support this bill, the vast majority of them turned their backs on our economy’s dire need for a solid, revamped infrastructure.

Assuming the BBB Act does become law, Biden and the Democrats will have pumped in close to $5 trillion dollars into the economy in one year. On top of that close to six million new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent.[3]

Even with all these positives, the outlook for the Democrats is not good. Record inflation is hurting most people in their pocketbooks. The battle to control COVID is still raging. Americans are angry, fearful and have not been as divided since the Civil War. And Biden and the Democrats are receiving most of the blame. Less than 40 percent of the population approve of their performance.[4] Haggling over the BBB package clearly has not helped them either.

For example, Sens. Sanders and Bennet take issue with the bill’s increase in the SALT (State and Local Taxes) cap deduction. They argue it’s another tax break for the wealthy and will cost the government billions of dollars.[5] Sen. Sanders put it this way:

“You can’t be a political party that talks about demanding the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and then end up with a bill that gives large tax breaks to many millionaires. You can’t do that. The hypocrisy is too strong. It’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”[6]

The Democrats’ struggle over raising the SALT cap exposes how vulnerable they will be in 2022 election and why they cannot rely on the BBB Act alone to get them over the finish line. As Sen. Sanders explained, it sends the wrong message to average Americans and gives the Republicans a great message to run on: “Democrats are the party of the rich.” Fortunately, the Democrats are working on a SALT cap compromise that will blunt this characterization.[7] But whether it will be sufficient remains to be seen.

There’s yet another issue regarding how effective BBB will be as a Democratic campaign energizer next year. That is, the voting public may not significantly benefit from the Act prior to the November election since many of the popular health benefits will not kick in until 2023 or later.[8]

Finally, BBB fails to address voting rights. Without protecting our right to vote, the Democrats have practically no chance of winning the House and little hope in the Senate next year. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, GOP legislatures around the country are enacting laws to suppress the vote, gerrymander congressional districts in their favor and control the administration of the elections giving them the ability to overturn the elections in their states.

The Democrats have no time to lose. They must settle their differences now and begin promoting their case that they are the party that truly supports the American people in these difficult times.

Urge your representative (https://www.house.gov/representatives, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov//senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to protect our right to vote and resolve these other issues immediately. The fairness of our elections as well as the future 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://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/american-rescue-plan-act-will-help-millions-and-bolster-the-economy#unemployment

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/republicans-promote-pandemic-relief-voted-77527236

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/11/05/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-october-jobs-report/

[4] https://nypost.com/2021/11/18/biden-approval-rating-hits-36-percent-in-quinnipiac-poll/

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/pelosi-says-house-democrats-will-add-paid-leave-back-to-bill-11635951745

[6] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/18/democrats-agonize-tax-cuts-rich-522859

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/dems-stuffed-bill-popular-health-093014592.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats Must Pass the Freedom to Vote Act Now to Level Elections Playing Field

While the recent passing of the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill is a step in the right direction, it won’t help the Democrats in next year’s election if they fail to protect our voting rights this year.

The Republicans’ number one priority is to win back the House and Senate next year. And they are doing whatever they can in the states they control to do just that. As Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, urged back in August:

Time is running out. The Senate must pass legislation establishing voting rules for federal elections in order for the rules to be implemented in time to prevent voter suppression in the 2022 congressional elections. Similarly, redistricting standards in the legislation must be enacted quickly to be implemented in time to prevent partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts that likely will take place around the country.[1]

Since Sens. Manchin and Sinema still oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, here is the Democrats best approach to getting the quick action Wertheimer is calling for on the Freedom to Vote Act:

  1. Eliminate all remaining pieces of the social Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Manchin and/or Sinema still object.
  2. Include the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets the reconciliation process requirements.
  3. Quickly pass the BBB act through reconciliation with the support of all 50 Democratic senators and then send it to the House for its approval.

Wertheimer is right. After the 2010 elections, Republicans made big gains in the last redistricting cycle. They used their “power to draw map lines that for a decade have entrenched their legislative majorities and delivered congressional seats to them in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, even when they havetallied fewer votes overall than Democrats.”[2]

Now, again, GOP state legislatures are moving rapidly to gerrymander as many congressional districts as they can to their unfair advantage. In Utah, for example, the GOP-controlled legislature is disregarding the redistricting maps submitted by the state’s voter-approved, Independent Redistricting Committee. Instead, Republicans are supporting their own maps which “overwhelmingly favor Republicans” in all four of its congressional districts,[3] even though over 37% of Utah voters supported Biden in 2020.[4]

In Ohio, the Republican-controlled legislature has proposed congressional redistricting maps which “would squeeze Democrats into a tiny minority” giving the GOP the advantage in 12 or 13 of Ohio’s 15 congressional districts.[5] This despite the fact President Biden received over 45% of the 2020 vote in Ohio.[6] By that measure, the Ohio redistricting map should favor Democrats in at least 6 districts.

North Carolina is yet another example of the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering. The Republican-controlled legislature has approved a redistricting map that gives their party a 10 to 3-seat advantage with one highly competitive district. Biden lost North Carolina by only one percentage point last year.[7]

New York, on the other hand, is one of the few states controlled by Democrats where the legislature will have the final say on redistricting maps. Just like Utah and Ohio, the New York legislature can overrule the state’s redistricting commission maps. While Biden received 60% of the New York vote last year, the state’s redistricting map could end up favoring Democrats in as many as 23 of its 26 congressional districts.[8]

None of this, of course, is right for American voters who want to be fairly represented in Congress. The Freedom to Vote Act now languishing in Congress would remedy this gross injustice by banning partisan gerrymandering and making it easier for voters to get bad maps quickly struck down in court.[9] 

While the Democrats have spent the last several months bickering over the infrastructure (BIF) and social services (BBB) bills, all their haggling has left them in a deep electoral hole which must be remedied quickly if they are to have any real chance of winning next year’s elections.

Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future 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://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/566408-the-senate-should-postpone-vacation-until-it-acts-on-voting-rights?rl=1

[2] https://www.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2021-10-01/redistricting-wars-have-started-essential-politics

[3] https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/11/09/gerrymander-or-no/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Utah

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/580134-ohio-republicans-swing-for-fences-in-redistricting-proposals

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Ohio

[7] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/north-carolina-republicans-passed-a-heavily-skewed-congressional-map-how-will-the-courts-respond/

[8] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/new-york/

[9] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/freedom-vote-act-big-deal-redistricting