The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are We in a Moment of Transcendence?

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 76th birthday at Faywood Hot Springs south of Silver City, New Mexico. That morning my partner and I stepped outside our cozy cabin and a royal blue peacock appeared less than 20 feet away. We both felt great joy seeing this majestic creature with its amazing train of gorgeous feathers that had to be over six feet long.

The peacock is a symbol of transcendence and freedom. Encountering a peacock is said to be an omen of going beyond one’s personal boundaries and being “ready to shine out.” Feeling that my life is in a time of major transition, I sensed the appearance of this peacock — on my birthday, no less — was a sign for me to get out of my comfort zone and shift into a brighter, freer state of being. In the coming weeks and months, I believe how I might do this will become clearer.

Then, on Thursday evening, I watched President Biden address a joint session of Congress on national TV. As I listened to Biden, he appeared to have received a transcendent signal similar to the one I had gotten from the peacock. He was moving beyond his previous moderate political boundaries and imploring the American people to support bold, progressive proposals on everything from the economy and infrastructure to education and climate change:

“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”[1]

In essence, Biden was saying it’s time for the nation to abandon prior theories like “trickle down” economics that had never really worked anyway. Rather, he asserted that the country needed to turn the corner to a more inclusive, optimistic future built from the bottom up.

As a nation, we are finally emerging from the shadows of a debilitating pandemic, a devastating recession, and a draconian administration. While we have not eradicated COVID, the government has made great strides in controlling it with over 230 million vaccinations since Biden took office.[2] In addition, the economy is quickly recovering with 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter of the year fueled by government aid and declining viral cases.[3] Yet, we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not want justice for all or the right to vote protected for everyone. As Biden reminded us in his address:

And if we are to truly restore the soul of America – we need to protect the sacred right to vote. More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history – in the middle of one of the worst pandemics ever.
 
That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.[4]

This is America’s moment of truth. Yes, we survived the January 6th attack on our democracy. But if we are to truly transcend racial bigotry and economic injustice, and forge a new era based on fairness and compassion, we must overcome the hate, ignorance and greed that runs rampant in our country. Biden’s proposals are showing us the way. The question is: Do the Senate and the American people have the wisdom and courage to follow his lead?

Bruce Berlin, JD


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/04/28/us/biden-speech-congress

[2] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bidens-first-100-days-covid-19-jobs-foreign-policy-immigration-guns-dogs-2021-04-27/

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/29/economy-accelerates-last-quarter-484993

[4] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwLtkVTzhlmHssBtdsGmFqLvdWQ

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Corporate America Joins the Battle for Voters’ Rights

It’s a cloudy, overcast day here at my home in the country outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. While many of us have gotten vaccinated and are moving on with our lives, another momentous storm is sweeping across the country.

Yes, we do seem to be slowly beating back the COVID pandemic. In fact, Dr. Fauci recently indicated that “we would approach some degree of normality as we get towards the end of the summer and into the fall, and a considerable degree of normality” by next winter.[1]  I hope he’s right.

Yet, what’s happening today in America’s corporate boardrooms is anything but normal. As I noted in my blog of April 9 (https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/), Republican lawmakers throughout the nation are doing whatever they can to gain and maintain political power. In 47 states they are making it more difficult for people of color to vote, people much more likely to support Democrats.[2]

Now, a new voice has suddenly entered the fight to protect our voting rights. Hundreds of U.S. corporations and executives, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, G.M., Starbucks and Warren Buffett, recently signed on to a two-page ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling for the defense of Americans’ voting rights.[3]

And, in the irony of all ironies, the Republicans are up in arms. Here’s how Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who knows how to talk out of both sides of his mouth better than any other politician, responded to the corporate support for voters’ rights:

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” before unbelievably adding, “I’m not talking about political contributions.”[4]

This is the same Sen. McConnell who praised the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that money is speech protected by the First Amendment and corporations are just like people who, therefore, have the right to finance election spending:

“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process.” He hailed the decision as “an important step” in “restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups.”[5]

Of course, both parties take loads of campaign contributions from corporate interests.[6] However, the Democrats are not the hypocrites that McConnell and his Republican colleagues are. They don’t accept huge donations and then tell their corporate donors to stay out of politics.

But here’s where you come in. Tell these corporate contributors to put their money where their mouths are and back up their speech with effective action.

Do the following to help strengthen corporate efforts in the fight for voters’ rights:

  1.  Check out the NYT ad at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/dealbook/ceos-voting-rights.html
  2. Write down the names of companies that you do business with or from whom you buy their products.
  3. Write/email those companies. Tell them you are a customer of theirs and you support their stance on voting rights. Write to as many companies as you can.
  4. Urge them not to donate to any candidate or elected official (state or federal) who supports state or federal efforts to restrict voting rights in any way, or who was involved in the January 6 insurrection.
  5. Insist that they only donate to candidates and elected officials (state or federal) who support HR1/S1 (the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
  6. Contact your friends and family and ask them to take the above steps as well.

Together, with Corporate America on the side of protecting everyone’s right to vote and our demanding they withhold funding of Republicans working to restrict voting rights, we can be a powerful force in the struggle to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

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

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


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/fauci-breakthrough-infection-covid-vaccine-b1830303.html

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021?ms=gad_voting%20laws_513381296572_8626214133_121430490955&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6-SDBhCMARIsAGbI7Ugdzt2p9ECuO9L4gAq34U9LPZvOTc2tbxNqs02ZMCZQmaEGpr038xAaAmYbEALw_wcB; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-restrictive-voting-requirements-target-minorities

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-14/corporate-america-unites-for-voting-rights-without-naming-plan; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/ceos-corporate-america-voting-rights.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/07/mitch-mcconnell-georgia-citizens-united/

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/biggest-donors

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Joe Manchin, the Filibuster and the Right to Vote

The right to vote is the central principle of American democracy. Yet how representative can a democracy be if millions of its citizens are denied the right to vote through hundreds of state voter suppression laws?[[1]]

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the only Democratic senator who is not a co-sponsor of S1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.[2] This landmark Act includes, among other provisions:

·    automatic voter registration and other steps to modernize our elections

·    a national guarantee of free and fair elections without voter suppression, coupled with a commitment to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act

·    small donor public financing to empower ordinary Americans instead of big donors (at no cost to taxpayers) and other critical campaign finance reforms

·    an end to partisan gerrymandering

·    a much-needed overhaul of federal ethics rules[3]

Most importantly, the Act would thwart virtually every voter suppression bill currently pending in the states.

Manchin supports the right to vote, but he wants the final bill to be bipartisan. Recently, he wrote, “As the Senate prepares to take up the For the People Act, we must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone’s right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws.”[4]

In an ideal world, I would agree with Sen. Manchin. But in the real world where Mitch McConnell is the intractable leader of Senate Republicans, bipartisanship is unthinkable. Not only did McConnell call S1 a “solution in search of a problem,” but he also flatly denied that GOP lawmakers were “engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever.”[5]

McConnell and his Republican colleagues choose to ignore the Brennan Center for Justice’s recent report that 361 bills to make it harder to vote have been introduced in 47 states in the first three months of this year, overwhelmingly by Republicans.[6] Still, no Republican senator has indicated any support for the Act.

Carving out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation may be the only way to pass S1 and guarantee the right to vote for millions of Americans. But Manchin asserts that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.[7]

The ball is in Manchin’s court. He can stick to his bipartisan demands, in which the Republicans clearly have no interest, and be the senator that allowed Republican voter suppression to cripple our democracy. Or he can join his fellow Democrats in supporting voters’ rights, save our democracy and not let a Republican filibuster stand in the way.

Manchin can’t have it both ways. Write Sen. Manchin at 306 Hart Senate Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20510; call his office at 202-224-3954; or email him using this form: https://www.manchin.senate.gov/contact-joe. Demand that the senator stick with the Democrats and support the right to vote for all Americans.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[2] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/joe-manchin-for-the-people-act_n_605cc780c5b67593e0569de7

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/for-the-people-act-senate-mcconnell-b1821867.html

[6] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/361-voter-suppression-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year/

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-manchin-filibuster-vote/2021/04/07/cdbd53c6-97da-11eb-a6d0-13d207aadb78_story.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Stop Social Media From Undermining Our Democracy?

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s docudrama, The Social Dilemma, I highly recommend you put it at the top of your “to-watch” list. It’s a deep dive into how Facebook, Google and other social media manipulate its users (us) and what that is doing to American society.

I am a fairly regular consumer of social media. I mainly use it to promote my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, and to publish the blog you are now reading. After watching The Social Dilemma, my thinking about social media has shifted dramatically. While it provides some real benefits, I now understand that these huge companies have become an unbridled threat to our democracy.

The film brings to light that people are highly likely to believe false information on the internet, which, in turn, affects their off-screen behavior. For instance, 64% of the people in extremist groups on Facebook joined these groups because they were unknowingly seduced by information social media feeds them. By using algorithms, mathematical formulas derived from what we choose to look at on the internet, social media sends us computer messages and images that reinforce ideas and products that we have previously viewed. Algorithms often push content that ignites outrage and hate, and also amplifies biases within the data collected from our computer usage.[1]

According to an MIT study, false information on Twitter spreads six times faster than true information because people have a greater emotional reaction to fake news.[2] That’s how former President Trump was able to quickly spread his Big Lie about the election to millions of social media users. This enabled Trump to draw thousands of his outraged followers to Washington on January 6 who were willing to storm the Capitol and attempt to overthrow the government.

The Social Dilemma provides evidence of just how destructive social media is to American society in general as well. Social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt notes a “gigantic increase” in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide among pre-teen and teenage children, Gen Z, who have been on social media since mid-primary school.[3]

Haidt says that the numbers of teenage girls admitted to hospital for self-harm including cutting were stable until around 2011-13, but in the U.S. these have risen 62 per cent for 15-19-year-olds and 189 per cent for pre-teen girls; “that is horrifying…We’ve seen the same pattern with suicide,” he said. In older teen girls it’s up 70 per cent compared with the first decade of this century and “in pre-teen girls, who had very low rates [previously] it’s up 151 per cent and that pattern points to social media.”[4]

Jeff Orlowski, director of The Social Dilemma, says he feels afraid of political misinformation and concerned about “the breakdown of truth.” If people can’t agree on the truth, he notes, that puts society in jeopardy and makes it possible for democracy to fail.[5]

“We have a machine whose main currency is outrage and anger,” Orlowski concludes, “And if this is the trajectory that we’re being programmed down, if we are constantly being fed the things that made us outraged and angry — and that is our life experience and that’s what we see on a daily basis — how does it not end” in civil war or autocratic rule?[6]

Orlowski hopes his film can serve as a wakeup call that shocks the public into demanding the reforming of social media. We, the people need to lobby Congress to regulate social media just as public utilities like our electric companies are required to meet certain standards.

Rather than manipulating the public for nefarious purposes, social media must serve the public good. If Americans do not heed The Social Dilemma’s wakeup call, we do so at our own peril.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

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

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


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Dilemma

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/it-makes-you-want-to-throw-your-phone-in-the-bin-the-film-turning-teens-off-social-media-20200926-p55zhi.html

[4] Ibid

  [5] https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/09/18/social-dilemma-director

[6] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Redistricting Conundrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

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

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


[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text

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

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As concerned citizens, we must all advocate for and put maximum pressure on all Democratic senators to find a way out of this potential disaster. The filibuster does not serve we, the people. Call, email or write your senators today and demand that they come together, override the filibuster and save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

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

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


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2021/03/16/mcconnell-threatens-100-car-pile-up-in-senate-if-democrats-nuke-filibuster/?sh=62d7096836a3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the relentless plague of racism continue to cripple our nation? Or will the Democrats finally stand together, overcome the filibuster and uphold the right to vote for all Americans? It’s time the Democrats did the right thing in order to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

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

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


[1] https://www.vox.com/2016/2/14/10981986/black-panthers-breakfast-beyonce

[2] Ibid.

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

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

[5] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Now or Never!

2021 is shaping up to be the most critical year for American democracy since the Civil War. The January 6th attack on the Capitol foreshadowed a political period of extreme uncertainty and potential disaster.

At the same time, the first couple of months of 2021 have given Americans substantial promise that the country will soon overcome the COVID pandemic and head toward a more normal way of life. Still, major obstacles may impede progress and ultimately destroy any chance for a brighter future in the near term.

To combat our nation’s health and political emergencies, the House of Representatives has passed and sent to the Senate the 2021 COVID relief bill and HR 1, the For the People Act. What is most striking about both of these bills is their popularity among Republicans throughout the country versus the lack of Republican support in Congress:

  • 59% of GOP voters favor the pandemic relief act, while 77% of all voters do[1]
  • 56% of GOP voters support H.R. 1, the For the People Act, while 67% of all voters do[2]

Yet not one Republican senator or representative favors either bill. With such bipartisan support across the nation, how can this be?

Despite their constituents’ support for relief and reform, Senate Republicans will have none of it. Rather, they would allow millions of Americans, including a great many of their own supporters, to continue struggling. Plus, GOP senators are fighting to block HR 1 and deny the right to vote to as many Americans as possible in order to grab power and maintain minority rule.

Enacting HR 1 into law this year is critical to protecting our democracy. It will restore and expand voting rights, protect the ballot, end gerrymandering and provide election security, among other important provisions.

While Congressional Republicans take issue with some elements of these bills, their overriding concern appears to be political. Though the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, Republicans refuse to concede any authority to the majority party.

Congressional Republicans argue that the $1.9 trillion COVID bill is much larger than what is needed to assist millions of suffering coronavirus victim, health workers, schools, the unemployed, underfunded cities and others. Yet, those same Republicans had no hesitancy in 2017 in passing a huge tax cut creating a $1.5 trillion budget deficit that overwhelming benefited their wealthy donors, multi-national corporations and others who were hardly suffering and really didn’t need such largesse.[3]

Democrats, on the other hand, realize that past relief efforts like the 2009 Recovery Act may have fallen short.[4] They do not want to risk making the same mistake again, especially during the limited time they have the power to help everyday Americans, as well as fix our broken political system.

Senate Democrats must stick together. They must beat back Republican obstruction. As I noted in my February 26th blog, The Critical Fight to Save Our Democracy, “a simple majority of the Senate could ‘carve out’ election-reform legislation from the filibuster. That is the Democrats could vote to exempt any bill that expands voting rights from being subject to a filibuster…”[5]

We must insist that Senate Democrats do just that in order to save our democracy from being subverted by Republican voter suppression, gerrymandering and the like. Write, call and/or email your senators and urge them to protect our democratic rights. If not now, when?

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://morningconsult.com/2021/03/03/coronavirus-stimulus-voter-support-bipartisan/

[2] https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2021/1/22/majority-support-hr1-democracy-reforms

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/30/trump-tax-cut-law-investigation-worker-benefits

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/could-we-have-had-a-bigger-stimulus/2011/05/19/gHQAcBjGzH_blog.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

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

[8] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

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

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


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/02/it-was-all-a-lie-review-trump-republican-party

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid.

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