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Democrats won a mandate — now it’s time to act like it

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Democrats are at a crossroad. After four years of chaos and disrepute, the American people vested power in the Democratic Party. This was no accident. More Americans than ever before made their voices heard at the ballot box and said “no” to another term of Trumpism.

Now Democrats have a decision to make: Will they use their power to restore order to our institutions and honor to our democracy? Or, will they bend to the will of a minority, unwilling to move our country forward?

This is by no means a complicated decision. Democrats were given a mandate by the American people. The 2020 election was a referendum on Donald Trump — the American people fired the former president and hired Joe Biden. But that wasn’t all; they didn’t just change which party controlled the White House, but they changed which party controlled Congress too. A seismic shift that, in theory, would allow Democrats to implement the very legislation that they ran on and that was favored by voters. 

That is, if there wasn’t a filibuster in place. The filibuster, a “ Jim Crow relic” as President Obama referred to it, was made common by Southern senators looking to block civil rights legislation from passing in the early 20th century. Now 100 years later, Republican senators are determined to use the filibuster to deny rights to people of color and block legislation that would improve the lives of millions of Americans and reassure our friends and foes around the world that we are who we say we are, the greatest country in the world. 

Democrats don’t have a difficult decision to make; they have an obligation to the American people to end the filibuster and pass the comprehensive legislation that voters approved of when they elected Democrats to power. This is the will of the people. If Democrats don’t use their power, then why should voters ever trust them with it again? This isn’t about retribution or revenge — this is about responsibility. The role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. The people will never be able to protect themselves from the special interests that have flooded our democratic process and pitted neighbor against neighbor in an effort to distract them; but Democrats can. 

It may sound too idealistic and hopeful given what our politics look like, but imagine a world where Democrats implemented some version of “Medicare for All,” passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and put together a commission to investigate what happened on Jan. 6, when our capitol was overrun. Imagine a world where politicians did what they were put into office to do: make their constituents’ lives better and make the country stronger for the next generation. 

That’s not what we’ve got in this country. What we have at this very moment is a party of ideas and a party beholding to a single personality. Democratic policies are prescriptions to heal the country. What the Republican Party has offered voters is Trump’s special blend of nationalism sprinkled in with racial televangelism. His rhetorical kool-aid has rendered Republicans in Congress unable to do anything other than serve his interests. 

Take Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, for example. That day, people who are anything but “patriots,” as they claimed to be, stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to stop the validation of the 2020 election. They weren’t defending freedom or visitors on a tour; they were attacking the very foundation of our democratic process. In overrunning the Capitol, they not only attacked our democracy, but every American. 

Now, less than six months after the riot, the idea that Republicans in Congress would deny Americans the opportunity to investigate what happened, why it happened and how we can ensure it never happens again, isn’t mind boggling or confusing — it’s politically craven. Republicans in Congress spent years investigating the attacks on the American government facilities in Benghazi, but now they refuse to look into the attack on our capitol. Not because voters don’t support an investigation, but because Trump likely doesn’t support it. 

I wish more Republicans in Congress were honest brokers. The country needs a strong Republican Party as much as it needs a strong Democratic Party. Unfortunately, absent a meteoric shift among Republicans in Congress, Democrats do not have reliable partners to negotiate with. They’ve got Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in the lower chamber, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the upper chamber. Now that Democrats have attempted to work with Republicans, now that they’ve offered them a seat at the table and have been rejected outright, it’s time to end the madness. Democratic senators refusing to acknowledge the environment that we currently live in aren’t just shirking their duties as representatives of the people, but they’re leaving our country worse off than when they were elected.

We are on a path to less voting rights, less opportunity, less upward mobility and less of a basis to be the moral voice around the world. Democrats cannot let the fear of losing power paralyze them. If Democrats don’t use their power, then they will undoubtedly lose it and risk forever altering our nation and the Democratic process that we say we love. This is by no means a complicated decision, it’s an obligation. Take note Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — you were given a mandate by the American people. It’s time to act like it. 

Michael Starr Hopkins is a senior vice president at Firehouse Strategies.

Tags 2020 elections Capitol attack Capitol Hill Democracy democratic process Democrats Donald Trump Jan. 6 commission Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Kevin McCarthy Kyrsten Sinema Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz Mitch McConnell Republicans trumpism

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