Republicans in the Senate last week appointed an extreme right-wing ideologue to the nation’s highest court for life, just days before the most controversial election of our lives, in which tens of millions of Americans have already participated. In response, the Democrats in the House did what the Senate does best: nothing.
When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed for the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the Democrats protested in the Senate but said they could not block the trial. This was a pathetic excuse to withdraw from a fight that could decide the fate of American democracy.
Barrett is not only putting health care and access to abortion at extreme risk. It also threatens to cement Republican minority rule.
Remember: The majority of American voters voted against President Donald Trump in 2016. The Democratic “minority” in the Senate represents almost 15 million more people than the Republican “majority. And Trump has launched a large-scale attack on the integrity of the election by publicly refusing to accept the results and by appointing a judiciary that he hopes will help him win.
Given Trump and McConnell’s blatant seizure of power, the Senate Democrats’ response should not have been a shrug of the shoulders. The Democrats have a duty to the majority they represent and to the country as a whole to stand up. It is long overdue for the knives to be pulled out.
Now, when nothing less than the fate of our democracy is at stake, it is not the time to become complacent. In the future, the Democrats will not have to take blows in protecting the political rights of Americans and will have to aggressively fight GOP corruption at all levels.
First and foremost, Democrats in Congress must maximize every power they gain during the election to restore the integrity of the election. They can achieve this by campaigning for and passing the For the People Act (HR1). Adopted in the House of Representatives in 2019, the bill would empower all Americans by introducing a national voter registration program, among several other goals, making election day a federal holiday, and requiring that presidential and vice presidential candidates disclose their tax returns.
Ensuring equal access to the polls for all U.S. citizens must remain a priority for Democrats in Congress, even if the dust settles on this election. In addition to combating partisan gerrymandering and the repressive tactics of GOP voters, which have been fully effective in this cycle, granting statehood to any U.S. territory that requests it will help make the U.S. a more diverse, equal and representative democracy. With so much electoral power in the hands of the judiciary, reforming the Supreme Court and expanding the federal courts in favor of the right to vote are options that the Democrats must also address.
It is a shame that we have to beg our leaders to do even the most basic things. It is their moral and constitutional obligation to protect our democracy from anyone who would abuse it-whether the threat comes from abroad or sits beside them in the Senate chamber. It is well known that senators regard their institution as a more distinguished form of politics, a chamber that is deeply dependent on archaic rules and a culture of courtesy. This collegial spirit is a luxury that millions of people, who have much more at stake, simply cannot afford.
Wealthy people who are interested in preserving our most basic rights should also recognize the urgency of this moment. However wrong it may be, politicians may not listen to their constituents, but I can assure you that they listen to money.
Since I am a wealthy donor myself, I can call senators to whom I have contributed, and I know that my voice will be heard. For years, dark money has been flowing into the conservative effort to stuff the courts with puppets of the right, but there has been no similar effort from the left. Democratic financiers must seize the opportunity and use their overwhelming influence for good at this critical moment.
If ever there was a time to abandon all those old Senate rules and norms, it is now. In all my 69 years, I have been proud to be a gentleman from the South. With my fellow men in a zi