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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/13/21

Do White Senate Democrats Get It?


Jim Clyburn Urges Filibuster 'Carveout' for Laws Protecting House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is urging President Joe Biden to amend the U. S. Senate filibuster in order to carve out laws that are directly tied to ...
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I feel uncomfortable when I turn on the tv and watch mostly people of color speaking out in favor of protecting voting rights in our nation I feel uncomfortable because I am an aging White guy who thinks the right to vote belongs to all eligible citizens in this country. I don't think this opinion is extraordinary or particularly insightful. I also doubt the concept of voting rights is the sole province of people who don't look like me.

But I am leery about continuing to comment on the national debate over whether Congress should pass major new, perhaps even sweeping but imperfect laws to protect us from GOP-dominated state Legislatures and the Supreme Court. I am leery because I am a White guy who has put in 63 years on this planet. That means I am imperfect and don't want to even appear to be lecturing other White folk.

But the debate over democracy persists because the Brennan Center, among others, tells us that Republican lawmakers are hard at work in many states. Their task: make it more difficult for at least some citizens to vote. The Supreme Court also handed down a decision recently that continued its assault on the federal Voting Rights Act.

These actions follow repeated lies from Donald John Trump and his supporters. They insist the November presidential election was rigged and stolen by Democrats. The assertion seems to be enough for some, even though no proof exists. Even six supposedly wise Supreme Court justices look the other way at the lies and lack of evidence. They also seem to ignore the context established by the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

So let me declare that I have only earned a high school diploma in this lifetime. I lack a Ph.D. mind, I am not an attorney or a social or political scientist steeped in the complexity of the law and social and political evolution. Yet I am idealistic enough to believe our democracy has room for what I think.

And what I think is simple, really. I remember my last term in high school. A government official came to one of my morning classes at my mostly white school in Broward County, in Florida. The official, who my sometimes forgetful mind identifies as a woman, asked us to raise our hands if we would be 18-years-old at the time of the 1976 presidential election.

I raised my hand and was given an application to apply to vote, even though I would not turn 18 until April of that year. I turned in the application promptly. My application was processed promptly. This allowed me to cast my first vote in the upcoming Democratic presidential primary. I also voted in the fall General Election.

I have never had to wait in a long line to vote, certainly not for hours. I have never had anyone offer me food or water, probably because my waits in line have been short. I have never cast a vote on Sunday. That is because I am not Black. Nor am I a Christian. In short, I have never participated in a Souls to the Polls event sponsored by Black Churches. I also have never had my voter registration information purged from the system. Nor have I ever had my voter identification challenged. I don't even ever recall seeing "poll watchers" cast their gaze or aim their cameras my way when I did my democratic and patriotic duty to participate in our form of government.

So that is my story. My experience. I use these experiences to evaluate what the Democrats in the Senate are doing, or not doing. I find leaders such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Joe Manchin, and Sen. Krysten Sinema wanting. Their words and actions are standing in the polling station door making it impossible under the constraints of the filibuster to pass voting-rights protections.

Feinstein insists that she sees no threat to democracy, at least not now. Manchin and Sinema adore "comity" and "bipartisanship" even though Republicans brag that the conservative Democrats are "effectively blocking President Biden's agenda by refusing to abolish the filibuster, even going so far as to ask conservative activists to "flood" the Democratic centrists with "messages of gratitude," Yahoo News reported Friday.

Voting Rights is part of Biden's agenda. He plans to give a speech Tuesday in Philadelphia on the pressing matter.

Some organizers and advocates are putting pressure on Senate Republicans to change their minds on the For the People Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. Good luck with that project.

Instead, people of goodwill need to tell white Democrats in the Senate what they think and how they feel. Sen. Sinema, a social worker, attorney, and Ph.D. lectures her fellow politicians about the need to change their behavior. It is time for Feinstein, Manchin, and Sinema to change their behavior. It is time for other "moderate" Democrats hiding behind the "Three Blind Mice" to change their behavior, too.

White Democrats in the Senate have the power to write legislation that 50 Democrats can support. Their support will let Vice President Kamala Harris break a tie, sending voting rights bills to President Biden for his signature.

These moderate and conservative Democrats also have the power to change their behavior when it comes to the filibuster. They can amend it, suspend it or eliminate it. They can back a carve-out for matters that pertain to our Constitution, our sacred governing document.

Will White Senate Democrats change their behavior in time to bolster our democracy?

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This article first appeared at my free Substack newsletter, What's Going On. Do White Senate Democrats Get It? - by Steve Schneider - What's Going On (substack.com). You can also read Texas dispatches on the Special Legislative Session. Carroll G. Robinson, the chairman of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, has contributed two essays already. Fighting for Democracy in Texas - by Steve Schneider - What's Going On (substack.com)

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Steve Schneider lives in Florida. He writes articles for Humor Times and Democracy Chronicles.

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