Budowsky: Warning: Sen. Manchin could elect GOP Congress, POTUS
Across the nation, in states controlled by Republicans, GOP party officials are trying to orchestrate the most aggressive campaigns of voter suppression, voter restrictions and partisan gerrymandering in modern history.
With voting rights and democracy under siege in the 2020 election and now for the 2022 and 2024 elections, two matters are paramount.
First, Congress must pass urgently needed legislation that has passed the House and is pending before the Senate and must not be killed by a Republican filibuster.
Second, Democrats should engage in massive voter registration and mobilization campaigns, building on successful efforts in 2020, and begin a Freedom Summer this year, similar to the Freedom Summer in the 1960s led by historic voting rights champions including the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).
Today as hundreds of voter suppression bills are moving through state legislatures, hyper-partisan Republican voter suppression and hyper-partisan gerrymandering advocates are confident that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once bragged he is the “grim reaper” who buries Democratic proposals and who spearheaded endless filibusters against Democratic proposals throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, will filibuster any attempt to protect voting rights or to seek nonpartisan redistricting affecting the upcoming elections.
Whether Republicans promoting voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering succeed probably depends on the support of one Democrat: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. They count on him to support partisan GOP filibusters against all proposals to protect voting rights and substitute nonpartisan redistricting over partisan gerrymandering.
With the 2022 midterm elections shaping up as a close gargantuan battle for control of the House and Senate, partisan gerrymandering could give control of the House to the GOP, while partisan GOP voter suppression would give a major boost to Republicans in the 2022 House and Senate elections and the 2024 presidential campaign.
There is no question, and it is no exaggeration, to suggest that whether the 2022 and 2024 elections could be fixed by partisan Republicans and be decided in the coming weeks by a Democrat, Manchin. He will or will not allow a partisan Republican filibuster to destroy the integrity of those elections.
My advice to Manchin is to arrange a comprehensive briefing by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, and leading experts involved in protecting voting rights, to brief him about pending voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering efforts and the pending legislation to remedy them.
Manchin appears to be increasingly sensitive to the enormously historic and decisively important role he will play when our democracy is under such fierce attack.
My understanding of his position today, based on his appearances on four Sunday talk shows last weekend, is that he is open to two protections for voting rights.
He could support making filibusters “talking filibusters,” where filibustering senators will have to stay in Washington throughout any filibuster, and he would consider using the reconciliation process to require a majority vote if Republicans do not negotiate with Democrats in good faith on voting rights and try to “grim reaper” the legislation with a filibuster.
This might work, if Manchin interprets good faith as Republicans agreeing to bipartisan reforms to clearly protect voting rights and institute nonpartisan redistricting rather than partisan gerrymandering. I do not believe there is any chance they will, but if Manchin wants to try, we should, understanding the grave consequences to our democracy if Congress does not act because of a partisan GOP filibuster supporting partisan GOP voter suppression and partisan GOP gerrymandering.
America just finished one of the great threats to American democracy in the history of our Republic, culminating in a criminal insurrectionist attack on our Capitol while more than 150 Republican members of the House and Senate voted to brazenly steal the election that President Biden clearly won.
The fate of our democracy may rest in the hands of Manchin. May he choose wisely. History will long remember what he does.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.