The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Freedom to Vote Act

Finally, some good news from Washington! Last week Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which all 50 Democratic senators appear to support. The legislation was drafted by several senators including moderate Joe Manchin. Having objected to some provisions of the bill’s predecessor, the For the People Act, Manchin will be a vital advocate in securing final passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.

While this new bill is not as broad as the For the People Act, it includes a number of very critical provisions protecting the right to vote. Here are some of its most important articles:

  1. Requires every state to implement automatic voter registration,
  2. Makes Election Day a federal holiday,
  3. Permits every voter to request a mail ballot and drop it off at a secure drop box,
  4. Restores voting rights to anyone released from prison after serving his/her sentence,
  5. Creates the option for federal matching funds for House candidates,
  6. Requires disclosure of ‘dark money’ in the electoral process, and
  7. Bans partisan gerrymandering.[1]

The Brennan Center for Justice calls the Freedom to Vote Act “the most significant democracy reform bill in a half century.”[2]

There is, however, one major obstacle that must be overcome in order to pass this legislation. And that is, of course, the Senate filibuster. Democrats would need the support of 10 Republican senators to avoid a filibuster. While Manchin is pursuing their backing, he will almost certainly not obtain it.[3]

Therefore, the only way for this critical bill to become law is to reform the filibuster, allowing voting rights legislation to pass by a simple majority. While Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose eliminating the filibuster, they have not stated they are against creating such an exception to the filibuster.

A recent Washington Postpiece offered seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will become law this year.[4] Among them is that last March Manchin suggested he would be open to using the reconciliation process, which only requires a bare majority, to pass voting rights legislation if all efforts at bipartisanship failed. The huge wave of voter suppression and election subversion laws passed in GOP-controlled state legislatures since then strengthens the belief that Manchin and other Democratic moderates will come around and agree to filibuster reform.[5]

Perhaps the most compelling reason may be the Democrats’ desire to maintain control of Congress. Without the reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act, Republicans are likely to use the current redistricting cycle “to practice the extreme gerrymandering that could give them long-term control of the House, despite having the support of only a minority of American voters.”[6]

The future of American democracy is on the line. It is up to all of us to make sure the voting rights of all Americans are protected. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) to contact your Democratic Member of Congress and your Senators. Demand that they do whatever is necessary to make the Freedom to Vote Act the law of the land.

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/analysis-opinion/pass-freedom-vote-act

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/revised-democratic-voting-bill-drops-controversial-provisions-tweaks-others-as-pressure-for-action-mounts/2021/09/14/6c59def8-150a-11ec-9589-31ac3173c2e5_story.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/09/13/filibuster-senate-voting-rights-democrats/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Where Will America’s Current State of Crisis Lead?

America is in crisis. From the ban on mandatory COVID masks and the ugly withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion ruling and the attacks on our voting rights, the United States is anything but united. In fact, we are at a dangerous inflection point.

On the one hand, the country is confronted by a rising tide of fascism. Mark Green, the first public advocate for New York City and author (with Ralph Nader) of Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All, recently wrote in the Washington Spectator, “If openly cheating to install permanent minority rule doesn’t spell out “fascism,” it’s hard to see what would.” Green explains:

Trump “closely followed the playbooks of Mussolini, Salazar, Putin, and Bolsonaro: propaganda packaged as reality, extreme nationalism, delegitimization of the media, erosion of public confidence in elections, glorification of the military, self-enrichment and nepotism, relentless lying and systematic corruption, incitement to violence, Nuremberg-like rallies, a creed-of-greed over the common good, admiration of fellow dictators, scapegoating immigrants, vilification of “the other,” and the provoking of constant crises that “I alone can fix.”[1]

While Trump lost the 2020 election, he and his extremist minions are not going away. The Center for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR) addresses the magnitude of the threat Trumpism poses:

“Even if Donald Trump disappears from the stage forever, this isn’t over. More than a hundred congressional leaders have contested a fair and democratic election with falsehoods and conspiracy theories…Fascism and conspiratorial thinking have seeped into the minds of millions of Americans. If we compare Mussolini’s March on Rome and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch to Donald Trump’s Insurrection we should be reminded that the former examples were only the beginning of years of street violence. We can’t address this problem until we call it by its name: fascism.”[2]

On the other hand, President Biden and most Democrats are proposing a progressive agenda that would significantly improve the lives of most Americans. Their $3.5 trillion social infrastructure budget and the For the People Act mandating election reforms would create a more egalitarian America.[3]

While many Democrats are aware of the ominous threat presented by the radical right, they are not directly combatting it. Plus, Congressional Democrats can’t seem to come together to enact the policies and programs noted above that could effectively thwart the march to an authoritarian state.

As Green and CARR emphasize, we must acknowledge that what occurred in Germany and Italy in the 1930s is happening in our country today. Then, hopefully, we will be able to marshal the will and the resources to defeat American fascism before it is too late.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://washingtonspectator.org/none-dare-call-it-fascism-why-not/

[2] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/countering-radical-right/american-fascism/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/after-setback-us-house-democrats-near-deal-biden-agenda-2021-08-24/

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: The Afghan Tragedy

I travelled overland through Afghanistan on my way to India in the fall of 1972. It was before the failed Russian invasion and well before the American incursion. Back then, the country was at peace.

What struck me most about Afghanistan was its rugged independence. I entered the country from its western neighbor, Iran. Having been ruled by the U.S. supported Shah for many years, Iran clearly exhibited a strong American influence. To the east of Afghanistan stood Pakistan, which had been part of the British Empire for a long time.

Surrounded by all this western persuasion, Afghanistan proudly maintained its unique individuality. In fact, it was more like a gathering of tribal fiefdoms than a unified country. To believe that a foreign power like the United States could march in and transform Afghanistan into a western styled democracy was a fool’s errand.

Tragically, it took 20 years for the United States to understand that it could not determine the outcome of Afghanistan’s civil war. During that time we spent nearly $1 trillion in this futile attempt.[1] Related costs, e.g., interest on the war debt and support for injured military, will continue to mount for years to come. In addition, more than six thousand Americans lost their lives there. Well over a hundred thousand Afghanis were killed as well.[2]

The United States has little to show for this massive endeavor. Yes, we took out Osama Ben Laden. But that was in Pakistan over ten years ago.[3] In truth, our country just postponed the inevitable, the Taliban control of Afghanistan.

Probably the greatest tragedy has yet to come. The Taliban treat Afghani women and girls savagely. With its takeover of the country, women will be beaten, even executed, for the smallest violations of the Taliban’s strict moral code.[4]

Afghanistan is yet another example of grossly incompetent American foreign policy. Our country has a counterproductive habit of backing unpopular, corrupt governments that are eventually overthrown by native insurgents who then install anti-American, militant regimes. A prime example is the Shah of Iran, who was deposed by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, bringing about the Islamic revolution in 1979.[5] The U.S. involvement in Chile, Cuba and Vietnam also come to mind.

But the worst case of disastrous American foreign policy, of course, is China. Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang may have been the most corrupt of all U.S. allies.[6] In 1949, his American backed government was toppled by Mao Zedong and the communist revolution. More than seventy years later, the United States is still coping with the consequences of that misguided policy blunder.

Now, with this latest foreign policy catastrophe, we can only hope that our country will learn a strategic lesson about involving itself in another nation’s internal affairs. While we may mean well, the United States does not have the omniscient wisdom and wherewithal to do what’s right for other countries. We have a nearly impossible time doing the right thing for our own people.

While we cannot and should not completely withdraw from the world stage, our nation must step back and fully re-examine how to move forward in the international arena in the best interests of justice and world peace.

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.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/08/14/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-afghanistan/

[2] https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-08-14/costs-of-the-afghanistan-war-in-lives-and-dollars

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Osama_bin_Laden#:~:text=Osama%20bin%20Laden%2C%20the%20founder,DEVGRU%20or%20SEAL%20Team%20Six

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/08/the-talibans-return-is-awful-for-women-in-afghanistan/619765/

[5] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/shah-flees-iran

[6] https://www.salon.com/2014/03/08/35_countries_the_u_s_has_backed_international_crime_partner/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Political Leaders Refuse to Face the Truth

While Democratic senators spent precious weeks haggling with their Republican colleagues over a bipartisan infrastructure bill that should have been a no-brainer, GOP-controlled state legislatures have been undermining our democracy in broad daylight. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “17 states have enacted 28 new laws restricting voting rights so far this year, with dozens more expected to pass in Republican-led legislatures.”[1]

If that isn’t bad enough, Democrats from President Biden to Sen. Manchin (D-WV) are complicit in this demolition of democracy by failing to provide vital support for the only measures that can prevent it. Rather than calling for abolishing the filibuster or a carve out for voting rights to enable passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, the White House is banking on “out organizing” the Republicans’ voter suppression laws and gerrymandering efforts in the 2022 election.[2] Michael Li, the Brennan Center’s senior counsel for its Democracy Program, called this strategy “clueless and depressing.”[3]

If you favor the Democrats or just free and fair elections, you should be truly disheartened by all this. But then, Republicans are not satisfied with just rigging the voting process to give them an unfair advantage in future elections. They also want to rewrite history, so Americans won’t hold the black mark of the Trump inspired January 6th insurrection against them come the 2022 election.

One member of the “law and order” party called the attack on the Capitol “a normal tourist visit.”[4] Other Republicans described the Trump supported rioters as “patriotic political prisoners” and blamed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) himself did.[5]

Rather than stand up for the Capitol police who protected them from the violent protesters, the great majority of Congressional Republicans have sacrificed the truth to protect their corrupt boss, Donald Trump, as well as to coverup their own disgraceful behavior.

We are living in a country where the leaders of both major political parties are unwilling to face the truth and act accordingly in the best interests of our nation. Biden and his lieutenants refuse to accept the fact that the only way to have free and fair elections is to abolish or reform the filibuster. This may well cost the Democrats the 2022 elections and the rest of us our democracy.

At the same time, Republican leadership refuses to admit that Trump and his loyal followers attempted to overthrow our government and should be held accountable. And this failure could result in the Republicans losing next year’s election as well. A recent poll in a red Tennessee district indicated that pro-democracy Republicans (34% in the poll) stated “there was no chance that they would consider a candidate who voted to block the certification of the presidential election after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”[6] One hundred and forty-seven Republicans, eight senators and 139 representatives, voted not to certify President Biden’s election.[7]  Their re-election is at-risk.

Both parties seem to have lost their way and the ability to do the right thing. It is up to us, the American people, to set them straight. But can we, and how, before it is too late?

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/09/dnc-strategy-denounced-clueless-and-depressing-amid-gop-assault-voting-rights

[2] https://www.alternet.org/2021/07/joe-biden/

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/09/dnc-strategy-denounced-clueless-and-depressing-amid-gop-assault-voting-rights

[4] https://news.yahoo.com/house-republican-defends-normal-tourist-visit-comment-about-jan-6-insurrection-162631530.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/31/us/politics/jan-6-capitol-riot-pelosi.html

[6] https://newrepublic.com/article/162996/democrats-2022-house-liz-cheney-republicans

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/07/us/elections/electoral-college-biden-objectors.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

We are living in the most precarious of times. Our lives are at risk as the pandemic is on the rise once again. According to the New York Times, “(t)he Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus, is sweeping through the country. Fewer than half of Americans are fully vaccinated, exacerbating the situation.”[1]

At the same time, President Biden asserts our nation is facing the biggest threat to American democracy since the Civil War.[2] Many, including myself, agree. Across the country Republican state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws and seizing the power to overturn the will of the voters in future elections.[3]

In order to meet these monumental challenges, we must be prepared for the long haul. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither Covid 19 nor the authoritarian right will be overcome easily or quickly. Under such circumstances, self-care and taking care of each other are essential.

I know that if I do not maintain my physical and mental health, there is no way I can help anyone else, let alone work to save America from the assault on our democracy now reigning down on us. We cannot allow these perilous threats to overwhelm us. If we do, we and our country are sure to lose.

Putting our heads in the sand will not work either. Some of us are throwing up our hands and saying that there is nothing I can do that will make a difference. While it may feel that way, it is far from the truth.

Defeat is not an option. But neither is running ourselves into the ground. So, here are a few suggestions for staying engaged in these most difficult times without losing your health or your mind:

  1. Know that you are not alone. Join or form a support or affinity group. At least talk to a friend about how you’re feeling. Don’t keep it all inside.
  2. Get out in nature. A walk or hike can be very rejuvenating.
  3. Volunteer at a food bank, senior center or other service organization where you can feel you are contributing to making life better for someone.
  4. Do things you like to do, e.g., listening to music, reading a book, dancing, writing in a journal.
  5. Call or write the president and your senators and representatives. Let them know how you feel about the issues that concern you and what you want them to fight for.
  6. Contribute what you can to organizations that you feel are making a difference.
  7. Get involved in a cause you care about even if it’s just for a couple of hours a month.

For me, the key is balance. I know I cannot change the world by myself. I also know trying to do that just leads to burn out. We are in a marathon, not a sprint. We have to pace ourselves, taking time to recharge our batteries. Staying the course to save our democracy is what’s most vital.

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/2021/07/23/business/return-to-office-vaccine-mandates-delta-variant.html

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-voting-speech/2021/07/13/afd91f7a-e3d9-11eb-8aa5-5662858b696e_story.html

[3] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/06/14-gop-controlled-states-have-passed-laws-to-impede-free-elections/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden appears to naively think that an “all-out effort” to educate Americans about Republican suppression of voting rights will mobilize the public to ensure these bills are passed.[6]  Even if that were the case, and that’s a very big ‘if,’ such an effort will take precious time that we don’t have. As I noted in my blog last week (“Can We Save Our Right to Vote”), redistricting of Congressional boundaries will begin soon. And Republicans are set “to gerrymander enough House of Representative districts to win back the majority in Congress in the 2022 elections. At which point, House Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s entire agenda.”[7]

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/us/politics/filibuster-voting-rights.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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