2001 has passed into 2002. The first mid-term election of the Biden-Harris administration looms ever closer, and it appears that the Democrats in Washington and throughout the nation are living up to Will Rogers’ description when he said, “I belong to no organized political party; I am a Democrat.”
In 2022, this is no longer funny. As things look to me, the Democrats are the only political force that stands for an effective democracy. At the same time, the Republican Party seems dead set on continuing the Trump administration’s crusade to scrap our democracy and replace it with an autocracy run by and in the interests of a favored few.
Suppose Republicans prevail in the coming 2022 elections at state and local levels and regain control of Congress. In that case, they will be well on the way to replacing the governmental institutions and laws that guarantee the vitality of our democracy.
Beginning a year ago, Donald Trump and his allies tried to hold on to the presidency by lying repeatedly and loudly about the outcome of the 2020 election. Republicans have continued to work by controlling the Republican Party machinery and working at all government levels to rig future elections to undermine the growing political strength of voters most likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Republicans have even empowered state legislatures likely to support Republican candidates and overrule unfavorable (to them) outcomes of elections.
Eroding voting rights
The Republican Party, in fealty to Donald Trump, has not let up on this crusade. It has gone to work in state legislatures across the country to rig the state-run systems of fair and honest elections. In addition, the Republican Party’s representatives and senators in Congress have successfully blocked the enactment of federal laws intended to prevent efforts to erode voting rights — and snatch electoral victories when they disagree with the outcome.
Consider our fair state. Slim Republican majorities in both houses of our legislature have been able to use their advantage to either sneak through or ram through the whole menu of laws that will disadvantage likely Democratic voters. Furthermore, they unduly influenced the redistricting conducted by a supposedly “independent” commission, diluting communities’ electoral power likely to vote Democratic. This “neutral” commission had failed to work out congressional and legislative district maps that fairly recognize the demographic changes in our population since the 2010 census that would favor likely Democratic candidates and drew up districts that favor Republican candidates.
The results of these demographic changes are apparent in recent elections for statewide offices. It is the reason we now have two ostensibly Democratic U.S. Senators and Democratic Secretaries of State and Public Instruction. If enacted without further revision, I fear that the redrawn maps will advantage Republican candidates for the U.S. House and both chambers of the state Legislature.
This has all happened in plain sight over the past several months. Unfortunately, efforts to rectify the situation and prevent the one-sided rigging of the situation from favoring Republican incumbents and candidates nationwide have been stuck. This is partially due to the prolonged neglect of the President and the inability of the de jure Senate Majority leader to convince some of his minions to rally to a critical party initiative (not to mention their constituents’ best interests). His inability to function as the de facto leader results from his inability to hold his thin majority together. The present de facto leader can block any progress by keeping his half of the Senate singing from one sheet of music.
One villain in this existential drama is Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Allegedly in the fruitless search for bipartisan solutions to issues like voter and election protection, she has failed to consider and act in concert with the rest of her party leaders in the Senate at this crucial time when it’s an “all hands on deck” moment. It appears this failure is likely to cause the death of two bills that would enable the federal government to prevent the enactment of discriminatory voting and election law and policy at the state level.
Kick Sinema Out
Senator Sinema disregards the best interests of her constituents in favor of interest groups such as the pharmaceutical industry. Pray tell, are there any large drug manufacturing firms located in Arizona? Those interests have the temerity to run TV ads that try to convince us that we might not have access to life-saving drugs because of the legislation she opposes. What a crock! We Democrats can’t do much about her tenure now, but we can do it 2024 – if we can count on fair elections then!
Senator Sinema’s partner in this situation is Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, a career Democratic politician who has made a fortune in coal and oil company stock. Manchin blackmailed the de jure Majority Leader into appointing him to chair the Senate’s Energy and Commerce Committee so he wouldn’t defect to the Republican Party in the evenly divided Senate. Well, there he sits, like Senator Sinema, holding more power than he deserves and beholden to interests that are not the interests of his constituents. Together they have blocked Senate action to pass these bills. They have refused to negotiate meaningfully with their colleagues or the President, and time is rapidly running out with no end in sight.
So, what can we do on the desert floor (can we say grassroots here in Arizona?)
First, and right away, we need to let Senator Sinema know that we are not tolerating her contrarian behavior. Let her know that we want her to work with Senate Democratic leadership to block the filibuster and pass voting rights and election protection bills. We need to do this now. Please send a written message via her website (www.sinema.senate.gov )or call her Washington office (202-220-4521).
We need to organize and prepare to prevail against all odds in this year’s midterm elections. We need to seek out and support the best people to run for office at ALL levels. Candidates are already lining themselves up. Be sure to help your favorite win nomination in the August primary and campaign strongly in the campaign before the November election.
We need to educate, keep in touch with, and motivate voters at the neighborhood level. The Pima County Democratic Party, for example, has been working on this for a long time. For both the August primary and the November general elections, we need a strong turn-out of supportive voters that will help our candidates to win by margins so wide that it will be impossible or very difficult for a hostile Legislature to argue against or call a fraud.
All this will require time and money. Support these efforts any way you can if you care about our country and value what our democracy gives to us. Yes, what happens next year is important; and we cannot count on others to look out for us and protect our interests. It’s up to us.