Today, worried about how effective the dead Capitol police officer's mother was in trying to get senators to vote for the sedition commission, McConnell reached out to some wavering GOP senators-- John Thune (R-SD) being one of them-- and asked them to vote against the commission's establishment as "a personal favor." It looks like only Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins will vote tonight in favor of creating the nonpartisan commission, 7 votes too few. I don't suppose any of the Republicans who decided to oppose it cared about the new Quinnipiac polling showing that 55% of registered voters "view the events of January 6th as an attack on democracy that should never be forgotten." McConnell and his colleagues are more interested in a different number-- the 74% of self-identified Republicans who say "too much is being made of it and that it is time to move on."
The Des Moines Register editorial board had something to say to Iowa voters today about the state's legislature, though it could just as well been addressed to voters in any state where the GOP is in control-- and to the nation, where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have decided to give Mitch McConnell veto power over everything... every.single.thing:
The best thing the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature did this session was call it quits.
...The Republican Party has a stranglehold on Iowa. Indeed, it seems intent on strangling the state into something unpalatable to brilliant scientists, people of color and, most recently, parents of children who won't be able to be safely vaccinated against COVID-19 for months.
This is not your grandfather’s GOP. This is not your father’s GOP. It does not remotely resemble the party with anti-slavery origins. It is not the refugee-welcoming party of former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray. It is not the party of George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism.
Votes cast by legislators this session show the GOP in Iowa today is against democracy and public education and is dismissive of science that infringes on its policy preferences. It latches onto and runs with kooky ideas floated by national party operatives and right-wing special interests and calls them progress.
But Iowans do not need to accept the GOP rhetoric about supposed legislative successes. We can look past the lipstick and see the pigs.
How do we do that?
Take an objective look at what the representatives you elected did this session and ask yourself one question: How will my daily life be better now?
Because state lawmakers and governors can improve the lives of Iowans in ways as diverse as cleaning up the environment, funding public education, attracting new workers and expanding health insurance. Yet the current crop of leaders is not interested in those kinds of things. They concentrated, again, on lowering some taxes, for some people, while leaving unspent gobs of money supposedly set aside for tough times and cutting promised funding for local government budgets.
Short version: Under their watch, your life probably isn't going to improve one iota.
Moving Iowa a step closer to outlawing abortion doesn't raise wages or increase access to child care. Ensuring landlords can reject tenants who use housing vouchers will not help anyone pay a bill or secure a cancer treatment.
Sure, now you can buy a handgun without a permit. So can your unstable neighbor. So can your daughter’s abusive boyfriend.
Instead of protecting our waterways and our loved ones in nursing homes, lawmakers made it a priority to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits and drivers who run over protesters. Maybe your college-age son will be one of those protesters.
Thanks to this GOP, it will be a crime not to pull over for unmarked police cars. How do you know if an unmarked car is being driven by a law enforcement officer or a rapist?
And while it briefly seemed as though Iowa was tiptoeing toward progress on racial equality after protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd, the majority party instead took a giant step backward this legislative session. It refused to ban racial profiling by law enforcement. It refused to require tracking data from police stops so Iowa can assess who is being pulled over. Yet it did muster the will to raise penalties for protest-related offenses.
If you were among the Iowans who voted for Republicans because you thought they would value local control and less intrusive government, you got snookered.
The GOP has bent over backward to ensure government is your biggest brother. It seeks to dictate individual reproductive decisions of women and has stripped cities of the ability to set policies on wages, housing and fireworks. It has sought to micromanage what doctors say to patients and dictated what educators can teach students about racial injustice. After more than 6,000 Iowans were killed by a deadly virus, it prohibited schools from requiring students to wear masks. We don't know what infectious diseases may circulate in the future that mask wearing could help combat.
Even though Iowa’s existing election system worked well for Republicans by landing them in power, they felt compelled to make it even harder for Iowans to vote. New legislation shortens the early voting period, closes polls earlier and limits who can return a voter’s absentee ballot.
The editors suggest Iowans "stop this madness by kicking the extremists out of office."
Before shooting down-- for the gazillionth time-- the idea that he will ever change his mind about reforming the filibuster-- to take away veto power from McConnell-- regardless of how existential to democracy and the country the issue is, West Virginia's fake Democrat, Joe Manchin, had some crocodile tears for CNN viewers:
Today, in his Atlantic column, Ron Brownstein ever-so-gently tried nudging the DC Democrats into awakening from their somnolent state in the face of an imminent fascist takeover of the country on their watch. Brownstein noted that pro-Democracy activists "have become more and more uncertain that Democratic leaders have a strategy to overcome Manchin’s hesitance, not to mention his (and other Democrats’) refusal to pare back the filibuster, which Republicans are certain to employ against any voting-rights legislation. What’s more, these activists fear that by focusing relatively little attention on red states’ actions, Democrats aren’t doing enough to create a climate of public opinion in which Manchin and others could feel pressure to act on the issue of voting rights if and when Senate Republicans filibuster against it."
Beto told Brownstein that "This is the Voting Rights Act of our time. To pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act, President [Lyndon B.] Johnson used all of the political capital he had … We need that level of moral clarity from the president. Bring this country together, and connect the dots for all of us."
When I spoke with him, Fernand Amandi, a longtime Democratic pollster based in Florida, expressed a level of alarm most activists will share only in private. “I fear that perhaps some Democratic leaders may be suffering from … the idea that this cannot happen here and are bordering on dereliction of duty in not sounding the alarm to the American people and to the community of nations about the existential threat that the Republican Party now presents to American democracy,” said Amandi, whose GOP-controlled home state is one of many that have passed legislation curbing access to the ballot.
...[T]he White House is operating at a more tempered level of concern than other Democrats about the threats to small-d democracy emerging in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s attacks on the 2020 election. Based on my conversations with them, officials there seem to take a more nuanced and restrained view of what’s happening. They do not believe that more assertive public denunciation from Biden would dissuade any of the Republican governors or legislators who have moved to restrict voting rights. And although White House officials consider the laws offensive from a civil-rights perspective, they do not think most of those laws will advantage Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections as much as many liberal activists fear.
...Activists, though, worry that the White House is missing an opportunity to build greater public resistance to the GOP’s moves. Although Biden “does have an obligation as president to do everything he can in his power to unite the country,” Amandi told me, at some point he will need “to look into the mirror, acknowledge the stark existential threat that the Republican Party represents [to democracy], and make the decision about whether or not it’s time to talk turkey with the American people.”
In their private conversations, activists fear that Biden, by constantly stressing his determination to work across party lines, is normalizing Republicans’ behavior even as many in the party are radicalizing. And they worry that he is so focused on producing kitchen-table results—through his big infrastructure and education and families packages—that the voting-rights agenda will slip on the Senate priority list. If necessary, Biden can pass his spending plans through the special budget-reconciliation process that requires only a simple-majority vote. He can’t do that with election-related legislation, and it’s unclear how hard Biden, a longtime Senate institutionalist, will press Manchin, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and any other Senate Democrats who are reluctant to change the filibuster, the near-certain prerequisite to action on voting.
In fact, the White House already appears to be pessimistic that there is any path to persuading Manchin to support sweeping election legislation in the first place. He’s the only Senate Democrat who has not endorsed the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1. The bill would establish federal standards for voter registration and access to early and mail balloting, prohibit the gerrymandering of congressional districts, and create a public-financing system for elections, among other changes. As an alternative to the Senate bill, Manchin has proposed a new Voting Rights Act that would reinstate the original law’s “preclearance” provision and extend it to every state. (The original requirement, which the Supreme Court eviscerated in its 2013 Shelby County decision, mandated that the federal government had to sign off on changes to voting laws in states with a history of election discrimination.) At best, Manchin might be persuaded to add some of H.R. 1’s provisions ensuring access to registration and voting (like guaranteed days of early voting and universal absentee balloting) to a new VRA, said the senior Democrat familiar with White House officials’ thinking. But given the likelihood of near-total Republican opposition, even passing that would require him to create an exemption to the filibuster-- which he has so far adamantly insisted he will not do.
The White House does not appear to have any secret plan to win Manchin over. On this issue, as on so many others, White House officials and other Democratic senators seem to hope that once it becomes clear that Republicans will not cooperate with Democrats on the legislation, Manchin will eventually agree to pass it solely with Democratic votes.
But no one knows if or when that point will come. Virtually all Democrats and activists I’ve spoken with agree that Manchin is unlikely to move forward on voting rights unless Biden personally persuades him to do so. Which is why, even as they express unease about the flagging Democratic response to the Republican red-state offensive, so many activists are willing to give Biden more time to see whether he can steer new voting protections into law.
“We are dealing with one senator here, and the question is what do you do to persuade Senator Manchin that it is his role to protect, if not save, the democratic process?” Wertheimer told me. “I understand the concerns about President Biden-- about his not only not speaking up, but his focus on multiple issues, when this is of overriding significance. But I’m not going to judge at this point what is the best way for Senator Schumer and President Biden to convince Joe Manchin to protect democracy. I don’t know the answer to that.”
The electoral fate of the Democratic Party in 2022 and 2024, and perhaps the fundamental stability of American democracy, may depend on whether Biden or anyone else can find that answer in the months ahead.