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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Democrats Make Lemonade Out of Election Lemons?

The Democrats got a crate load of lemons in Tuesday’s election results. They lost all three statewide races in Virginia.[1] And, while Pres. Biden won New Jersey by nearly 16 points a year ago, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy barely eked out a victory in the governor’s race.[2]

Conventional wisdom is these results do not bode well for the Democrats’ chances in the 2022 mid-terms a year from now. But there may be a silver lining for the Dems if they can get their act together.

Since winning both houses of Congress and the presidency a year ago, Democrats have accomplished little for the American people. Their one major piece of legislation, the COVID relief bill passed last March,[3] has long been forgotten by most voters. What has been front and center for months, however, is the Democrats’ haggling over Biden’s social spending and climate package, the Build Back Better Act (BBB), while their infrastructure bill (BIF) languishes in the House after passing the Senate with bipartisan support. Progressives in the House have refused to support the BIF bill until they are assured that Senate Democrats will pass the BBB reconciliation bill. But, until moderate Sens. Manchin and Sinema get onboard, that assurance remains in doubt.[4]

If the Democrats are to have any chance of winning next November, they must heed the warning from the 2021 elections: Give Americans a positive reason to get out and vote for their candidates by passing these bills or suffer the dire consequences. In this year’s election, the Democrats fell way behind the Republicans in firing up their supporters.[5]

And the Democrats have no time to lose. They must pass these bills now so that the American people have sufficient time before the 2022 elections to enjoy and appreciate the many fruits contained in them. Here are a number of those benefits in the infrastructure bill:

  • Roads, bridges, airports, ports, public transit, broadband infrastructure, and power grid maintenance and expansion
  • Clean drinking water and removal of pollution from soil and groundwater
  • Energy job creation
  • Clean energy tax credits

The BBB reconciliation act includes these very popular provisions:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten
  • Paid family leave
  • Lower prescription drug prices
  • Clean energy tax incentives and fees
  • 15% minimum tax rate for large corporations
  • Childcare funding
  • Extension of the child tax credit
  • A middle and working-class families tax cut
  • A Medicare hearing aid benefit

Polls indicate a large majority of Americans approve of the BBB social services/climate act.[6] Since Republicans are united in opposing the bill, the Democrats should receive a significant election boost next year for providing these benefits to millions of Americans. A recent poll found that members of Congress who back the BBB agenda would receive a 17-point increase in support.[7]

So, the Democrats can make lemonade out of their 2021 election lemons by moving expeditiously to pass these two bills. But there is one additional piece of legislation that must accompany them. As I explained in last week’s blog, the Democrats must pass the Freedom to Vote Act to protect our voting rights against red state legislatures that are now passing laws to make it harder for Americans to vote and gerrymandering more Congressional districts to their unfair advantage.[8]

Without this additional bill, Democratic voters could be thwarted at the polls next year. We must contact our senators and representatives and urge them to pass all three of these measures. (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121).

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/homenews/campaign/579765-republicans-poised-to-sweep-virginia-stunning-democrats

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/11/02/us/elections/results-new-jersey.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/11/biden-1point9-trillion-covid-relief-package-thursday-afternoon.html

[4] https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-warn-democratic-leaders-on-possible-infrastructure-vote-11635413402

[5] https://www.alternet.org/2021/11/a-wake-up-call-for-democrats/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8175

[6] https://democrats.org/news/new-polls-same-results-president-bidens-build-back-better-framework-is-extremely-popular/

[7] https://buildingbacktogether.org/news/icymi-new-building-back-together-poll-build-back-better-agenda-remains-deeply-popular-across-key-states-members-of-congress-who-back-agenda-see-17-point-boost-in-support/

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

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: Trump’s Cult of Personality Still Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We cannot allow this to happen. Get out in the streets. March on Washington. We must act now to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: 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: Republican Hypocrites Call for Biden’s Impeachment

A very dark cloud hangs over Afghanistan. Last Thursday Islamic state terrorists killed 13 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghan civilians attempting to escape through the Kabul airport.[1] Since the Taliban captured Kabul two weeks ago, about 117,000 people, mostly Afghans, have been evacuated from the country.[2] After 20 years of war, the United States is finally pulling out of Afghanistan, leaving the country in chaos.

Far right Republicans like Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley are calling for President Biden’s impeachment or resignation.[3] They and a host of other Republicans argue that “his decisions created an environment ripe for crisis that indicates he is not capable of leadership.”[4]

These Republicans choose to ignore the fact that in February 2020 the Trump Administration signed the Doha agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. It did this in exchange for the Taliban’s ceasing attacks on U.S. forces. This deal “was widely recognized as having thrown our allies [the Afghan government] under the bus, as the Taliban were free to carry on fighting the Afghan army as long as they didn’t attack U.S. forces.”[5]

At the same time, the deal strengthened the Taliban’s ability to overthrow the Afghan government. It included the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners. For this and other reasons, “it was immediately clear to all observers that the treaty comprehensively removed incentives for the Taliban to compromise.”[6]

In other words, it was President Trump, not Biden, who set the stage for this Afghan catastrophe. And it’s laughable, as one observer noted, that Trump is blasting Biden for what’s happening in Afghanistan since “he was criticizing Biden for following through on his own exit strategy.”[7]

Like all of Trump’s presidential acts, the Doha Agreement and the U.S. troop withdrawal (Only 2500 remained when Biden took office.) were primarily motivated by Trump’s belief that it would benefit him personally in his 2020 re-election campaign.[8] For Trump and many Republicans to now call for Biden’s impeachment or resignation over the Afghan debacle is beyond the pale. Still, it’s typical Republican behavior to be outraged at their opponents’ actions while they find Trump and other Republicans’ more reprehensible conduct somehow acceptable.

For example, Republicans refused to impeach and convict President Trump when he incited a rightwing mob to storm the U.S. Capitol and prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. Plus, when the insurrection turned violent and Capitol police were being killed and maimed, Trump waited three hours before begrudgingly calling for reinforcements.[9]

Or, when the Democrats introduced the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voter Rights Act which would protect all Americans right to vote. The Republicans called this a “power grab” and “a stunning one-party takeover of voting laws and elections in our country.”[10] Yet, in red state after red state, they are the ones who are enacting voter suppression laws to ensure one-party Republican control of our government.[11]

It is incumbent upon the Biden Administration and the Democratic Party to expose the Republicans as the utter hypocrites they are. While the Democrats are far from perfect, unlike the Republicans, they do not make everything about political power. The pullout from Afghanistan, the impeachment of Trump and the current voting rights bills in Congress are all, first and foremost, for the benefit of the American people. That the vast majority of the Republican Party is, first and foremost, all about power puts American democracy in dire jeopardy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/26/world/asia/kabul-airport-bombing.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/28/world/asia/afghanistan-evacuations.html

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/now/wave-republicans-call-biden-impeachment-223000412.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/afghanistan-airport-explosion-happened-under-biden-traces-back-trump-ncna1277755

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/us/politics/trump-biden-afghan-taliban.html

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/us/politics/trump-impeached.html

[10] https://www.foxnews.com/politics/rnc-exec-dems-hr-1-hostile-takeover-election-process; https://www.republicanleader.senate.gov/newsroom/remarks/hr-1-would-create-a-stunning-one-party-takeover-of-voting-laws-and-elections-in-our-country

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

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: Time Running Out to Save Our Voting Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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


[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/8/us-senators-labour-on-1-trillion-infrastructure-package;

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.