People For The American Way has been an ally to Democratic presidents. Tuesday night the new president of the progressive advocacy group, Ben Jealous, was on Rachel Maddow's show (above) explaining what he was doing earlier in the day protesting in front of the White House. He wasn't exactly protesting Biden; he was protesting inaction on reforming the filibuster. The filibuster is holding up the entire Biden legislative agenda, leaving progressive groups that put everything into defeating Trump last year, frustrated and, in some cases, angry. They want to see Biden making use of the bully pulpit and twisting some arms-- namely Joe Manchin's and Kyrsten Sinema's, the two conservative Democrats who are gumming up the works.
Yesterday, Jealous wrote to PFAW supporters that "People For and the League of Women Voters brought the fight to protect voting rights to President Biden's doorstep. We were joined by many amazing religious and civil rights leaders,
as well as activists from groups like CASA, Black Voters Matter, Indivisible, and more... President Biden’s hesitancy to pressure the Senate to end the filibuster puts him squarely on the wrong side of history and we will keep showing up and demanding that he does the right thing."
Interviewed by Amy Goodman Monday, Jealous acknowledged planning civil disobedience as a way of stepping up the pressure of Biden "to call on the Senate to get rid of the filibuster as an obstacle to protecting the voting rights of people across this country." Goodman asked him to put the actions into context for her listeners.
We have a situation in this country where corrupt politicians in states like Georgia and Texas have given themselves the power to overturn future votes. If they don’t like the way that the people vote for the next governor of Georgia or the next governor of Texas or in the next presidential race, their state delegates have said, “Well, we’ll just overturn it.” They’ve given themselves-- these corrupt politicians have given themselves the power to overturn the people.
And so, we’ve got to pass the For the People Act to stop this. And we’ve got to stop the-- and we’ve got to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act so we can prevent bad laws from becoming laws in the future.
And the problem is that in the Senate right now, if you don’t have 60 senators, then you cannot get something to the floor for a vote. In this country, we believe that majorities matter, and so it should be in the U.S. Senate. Now, President Trump removed the filibuster as an obstacle to packing the courts with far-right-wing judges. President Biden certainly can remove the filibuster as an obstacle-- call on the Senate to remove the filibuster as an obstacle to ensure we can save our democracy.
...[T]here are multiple options on the table. And one of them is to just simply change the rules for the purposes of voting rights reforms. The filibuster was the insulator of Jim Crow. It is an accident of legislative history. It’s not part of the Constitution in any way. But it has been used again and again to stymie civil rights progress.
Joe Manchin is exactly the reason that we’re calling on Biden to put pressure on the Senate. Like Johnson before him, Biden has been given a situation where, yes, he has to lead on the economy and he has to make tough decisions about wars overseas, and yet he also has to act with courage to protect voting rights, to protect our democracy, to protect civil rights. And so, this president has said that one of the greatest crises facing our democracy are these state-level voter suppression laws. Well, if you believe that, Mr. Biden, then act on it and have the courage to call on your former colleagues on the Senate to do whatever they have to do to get these laws passed.
...[W]e saw Mitch McConnell change the filibuster rules in order to pack the court with far-right-wing justices, which, again, this is the guy who said that he wouldn’t even push through a justice if it was in the last year, and then he forgot about that. Republicans are very comfortable using power when they have it. They’re very comfortable abusing power when they have it. They have packed our Supreme Court with justices, even though they have lost the popular vote again and again and again. This is what we’re dealing with. And so, you know, Mitch McConnell and his hypocrisy don’t hold much weight with us.
There was a time when it felt like there was some decency in Washington. What we have right now is unbridled corruption in states like Texas and Georgia, where they have voted to empower politicians with the power to override the people in the next election. And the only antidote to state-level voter suppression and that type of corruption, quite frankly, is strong federal voting rights bills. That’s how we ended Jim Crow. And that’s how we have to deal with this situation.
Interesting that both the NY Times and Washington Post decided to not cover the protest. Less interesting that Politico didn't either. Too busy interviewing right-wing Afghani tax drivers?
The progressive candidate running for the open Ohio Senate seat, Morgan Harper, told me yesterday that "The filibuster has been used since its creation to block Civil Rights and any advancement for people of color in this country. Over the last decade, Mitch McConnell has continued to abuse it in order to entrench conservative minority rule in the Senate and block President Obama’s and now President Biden’s agendas. We need to eliminate the filibuster and pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act to restore voting rights."
Erica Smith is the progressive in the open North Carolina Senate race dominated by otherwise status quo establishment candidates. She's the ONE candidate fighting for change. "It is not an exaggeration to say that at this moment we are facing a choice between our Democracy or preserving the filibuster," she told me this morning. "Right now, the filibuster is doing exactly what it was intended to do, protect states that are seeking to take away Black people's right to vote. They want to rob us of our voice but let me tell you, we will not be silenced. As long as we've had it, our vote has been the weapon with which we've fought for freedom and the filibuster has been the weapon with which our oppressors have used to try to keep us oppressed. With our votes, we've tried to ensure that every single one of us has the right to vote and with the filibuster, they've blocked it. With our votes, we've tried to guarantee healthcare as a right to every American and with the filibuster, they've blocked us. With our votes, we've tried to make the minimum wage a living wage and with the filibuster, they've blocked us. It's our freedom or the filibuster and we need President Biden to choose freedom. We need President Biden to deliver on his promise to be there for the very same Black communities that elected him President of the United States."
Former Orlando congressman Alan Grayson is running for the Senate seat occupied by Marco Rubio. He takes a very pragmatic view of this kind of thing. "These are all simply made-up rules," he told me today. "Rules are judged by the results that they produce. If the results are awful, then it’s time to change the rules-- it’s that simple. It’s literally the job of the Senate-- and the House-- to change the rules. That’s what legislation is. You would think that of all the people in this country, Senators would be in the best position of all to realize that rules need to be changed, since that’s what they do for a living, that’s why they’re elected, and that’s what the Constitution tells them to do." You can contribute to Erica's, Alan's and Morgan's campaigns on the Blue America 2022 Senate page here. Or would you rather see Rubio and whatever garbage the Ohio GOP pukes up in the U.S. Senate for the next 6 years?