By Robert Reich
On Sunday, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced in an oped in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he opposes the For the People Act. He also opposes ending the filibuster.
An oped in the most prominent state newspaper is as non-negotiable a position as a politician can assert.
It was a direct thumb-in-your-eye response to President Biden’s thinly-veiled criticism of Manchin last Tuesday in Tulsa, where Biden explained why he was having difficulty getting passage of what was supposed to be his highest priority – new voting rights legislation that would supersede a raft of new laws in Republican-dominated states designed to suppress the votes of likely Democratic voters, using Trump’s baseless claim of voter fraud as pretext.
“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” Biden asked rhetorically in Tulsa. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends. But we’re not giving up.”
Everyone who paid any attention to Senate politics knew he was referring to Manchin, as well as to Arizona Senator Kirsten Cinema, another Democratic holdout.
Manchin’s very public repudiation of Biden on Sunday could mean the end of the For the People Act. That opens the way for Republican states to continue their shameless campaign of voter suppression – very possibly giving Republicans a victory in the 2022 midterm elections and entrenching Republican rule for a generation.
As it is, registered Republicans make up only about 25 percent of the American electorate, and the percentage appears to be shrinking in the wake of Trump’s horrendous exit.
But because rural Republican states like Wyoming (with 574,000 inhabitants) get two senators just as do urban ones like California (with nearly 40 million), and because Republican states have gerrymandered districts that elect House members to give them an estimated 19 extra seats over what they’d have without gerrymandering, the scales were already tipped.
Then came the post-Trump deluge of state laws making it harder for likely Democrats to vote, and easier for Republican state legislatures to manipulate voting tallies.
Manchin says he supports extending the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to all fifty states. But that’s small comfort.
The original 1965 Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, on the dubious logic that it was no longer needed because states with a history of suppressing Black votes no longer did so. (Note that within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced it would implement a strict photo ID law, and Mississippi and Alabama soon followed.)
The efficacy of a new national Voting Rights Act would depend on an activist Justice Department willing to block state changes in voting laws that suppress votes and on an activist Supreme Court willing to uphold such Justice Department decisions. Don’t bet on either. We know what happened to the Justice Department under Trump, and we know what’s happened to the Supreme Court.
Besides, a new Voting Rights Act wouldn’t be able to roll back the most recent round of voter suppression laws from Republican states.
Without Manchin, then, the For the People Act is probably dead, unless Biden can convince one Republican senator to join senate Democrats in supporting it – like, say, Utah’s Mitt Romney, who has publicly rebuked Trump for lying about the 2020 election and has something of a reputation for being an institutionalist who cares about American democracy.
Yet given Trump’s continuing hold over the shrinking Republican Party, any Republican senator who joined with the Democrats in supporting the For the People Act would probably be ending their political career. Profiles in courage make good copy for political obituaries and memorials.
I’m afraid history will show that, in this shameful era, Republican senators were more united in their opposition to voting rights than Democratic senators were in their support for them.
The future of American democracy needs better odds.
Robert Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.
Korean vet says
This article is so bias it sickens me …plain bull crap
Ray W. says
I am aware of the effect the emotional state of dread can have on a person, complete with a physical reaction to the fear of impending doom. Korean vet apparently feels the same way about political commentary. Interesting development? Hyperbole? Working himself into a frenzy? Much ado about nothing? Talking to hear his head roar? So many possibilities.
Merrill S Shapiro says
This isn’t a theoretical. If we can, in November 2022, replace Marco Rubio with someone who believes our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” we can help secure the future of American Democracy!
David Kehoe says
I find this story amazing. He is concerned that people have to show a driver license or some other type of identification to vote, that is voter suppression???? Please tell me how someone cashes a check, boards a plane, returns an item without a receipt to a retail store( i had to show a drivers license at Beals today) ,get a library card , I could go on and on without proper proof of identification??? Of course you need to show identification to vote, otherwise there would be cheating. I know the author, Robert Reich, is a leading spokesperson for the Democratic Party, is he actually support a fraudulent election???? In the words of he leader, “Come on Man”. Reich is a fraud for taking this position
Agree, Voter ID cards like any other form of legal identification prove who you are. IF its good for Mexico its good for the United States.
Nanci Whitley says
You show your I’d when you register to vote and sign it. From then on, whether at the poll or on a mail in ballot, your signature is verified.
Please explain how are republicans trying to suppress the vote?
Opposition to voting rights ? Everyone has a right to vote unless you committed a crime. Is it too much to ask anyone to provide an ID ? At age 18, you register to vote, you have always had the option to vote or abstain from voting voluntarily. The whole premise of 1 vote per person and the rules to conduct a legitimate election have always been adhered to. Take our upcoming mayoral election, that will cost between $ 100K-188K and most of the costs of the actual election are the people ensuring that the election is a certified process. That 1 vote per person was counted correctly. Ballots by Mail can be pretty expensive, but the real cost of this election is going towards the tabulating aspects of counting the votes as a certifiable election. It’s always been like that, look at the estimate and see it for yourself. If we spend that kind of money to certify the election, we might as well make sure the people are real & eligible US Citizens that are looking to improve America rather than soften & weaken it so their crimes & victimization of others isn’t protected as a right too.
The “End of Democracy” sure looked different just few years ago. Democrat’s and hypocrisy go hand and hand. This from the Washington Post a few years back. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/04/03/trump-wants-the-senate-to-get-rid-of-the-filibuster-good-luck-with-that/?outputType=amp
A bought and paid for Turncoat. What exactly has He done for his Constituents in WV lately?
Thank you, Joe. Someone has to be able to wade through this bill and understand the real intention. Even the name, “For the People”, is symbolic of a Socialistic ploy. And, yet, there are those who lean a certain way who throw shame without reading the bill in it’s entirety. Thus, moving our great nation further away from one of personal responsibility and social order.
Mike Cocchiola says
America used to be governed by compromise and a good deal of mutual respect. Now it’s moving inexorably towards an unbridgeable cultural divide and rule by the rabid minority.
There may be hope that we can move back to rational leadership. I hope.
Explain why the Left is so afraid of verifiable votes?
The only people disenfranchised are the cheaters.
Robert Reich is a perfect example to be afraid 😨. The left is without a doubt a problem in our Country. The Democratic Party is no longer the JFK party they have gone really feel to the dark side. He afraid be very afraid!!!!!
Rubio was reported as working 25% of the time. When he was so badly beaten in the run for president he said he was going to quit politics and go to work in the private life. Then someone reminded him that working the real world will not tolerate a 25% work schedule. So he decided to stay in politics.
Combat Vet says
At last, Senator Joe Manchin, a democrat that knows what he is doing. Lefties, quit your blubering!
Steve Naso says
The For the People is an oxymoron like the Affordable Care Act. For example, the lower middle class can not afford a $5,000 or more deductible in order to have Quality health insurance. Voter ID insures that one is who they say they are. It prevents imposters from voting. We need ID to buy booze, tobacco, drive a car, and board airplanes. The list goes on. Voting is the most important right we have as citizens of a free country. Let’s keep it that way.
Please try to pry open your minds and think of the less fortunate.
Voter ID Laws Deprive Many Americans of the Right to Vote
Millions of Americans Lack ID. 11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification.
Obtaining ID Costs Money. Even if ID is offered for free, voters must incur numerous costs (such as paying for birth certificates) to apply for a government-issued ID.
Underlying documents required to obtain ID cost money, a significant expense for lower-income Americans. The combined cost of document fees, travel expenses and waiting time are estimated to range from $75 to $175.2
The travel required is often a major burden on people with disabilities, the elderly, or those in rural areas without access to a car or public transportation. In Texas, some people in rural areas must travel approximately 170 miles to reach the nearest ID office.3
Voter ID Laws Reduce Voter Turnout. A 2014 GAO study found that strict photo ID laws reduce turnout by 2-3 percentage points,4 which can translate into tens of thousands of votes lost in a single state.
Voter ID Laws Are Discriminatory
Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.
States exclude forms of ID in a discriminatory manner. Texas allows concealed weapons permits for voting, but does not accept student ID cards. Until its voter ID law was struck down, North Carolina prohibited public assistance IDs and state employee ID cards, which are disproportionately held by Black voters. And until recently, Wisconsin permitted active duty military ID cards, but prohibited Veterans Affairs ID cards for voting.
Voter ID laws are enforced in a discriminatory manner. A Caltech/MIT study found that minority voters are more frequently questioned about ID than are white voters.
Voter ID laws reduce turnout among minority voters. Several studies, including a 2014 GAO study, have found that photo ID laws have a particularly depressive effect on turnout among racial minorities and other vulnerable groups, worsening the participation gap between voters of color and whites.
Voter ID Requirements are a Solution in Search of a Problem
In-person fraud is extremely rare. A recent study found that, since 2000, there were only 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – during a period of time in which over 1 billion ballots were cast.9
Identified instances of “fraud” are honest mistakes. So-called cases of in-person impersonation voter “fraud” are almost always the product of an elections worker or a voter making an honest mistake, and that even these mistakes are extremely infrequent.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in Georgia, where last week, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law an omnibus bill that targets Black voters with uncanny accuracy.
It’s now a crime in Georgia to give a bottle of water or a snack to people waiting in line to vote. We know that in Georgia and across the country, hours-long lines to vote are more often in Black and brown communities. Mobile voting (polling sites on wheels that travel to different set locations) is also now illegal in Georgia — a practice that has only been used in Fulton County, which has the largest Black population in the state. Ballot drop boxes must now be located inside early voting sites instead of other convenient locations, and many voters who plan to vote by mail must provide a driver’s license or state ID number.
These laws will disproportionately harm Black, brown, and Native American voters. Legislators tried to pass even more onerous laws — like canceling vote by mail and souls to the polls Sunday voting, but faced a sustained and effective outcry.
A survey conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that black voters waited, on average, 16 minutes in line during the 2016 election, while white voters only waited 10 minutes. Other studies backed that up. And long queues disproportionately affect wage workers, who don’t get paid time off to vote.
Policies like requiring voters to print out a form can dissuade younger or poorer voters, who are less likely to own a printer, from voting.
This is probably the worst justification for this that I have read. The government ID are FREE. Not sure what part of free you don’t understand??? You need a ID to assure a free and fair election. Even if we were to accept your crazy inflated cost, up to $175.00, if you really believe in a fair and honest election, that is an extremely tiny cost.
Sherry A Georgia law has not “criminalized giving people bottles of water.” It pertains to political organizations. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/mar/29/josh-holmes/facts-about-georgias-ban-food-water-giveaways-vote/
Don’t be lazy get an ID.
Talking to Republicans is like talking to someone that believes pro wrestling is real.
Ray W. says
Just a clarifying point: It is “rasslin”, not wrestling.
Please. . . anyone. . . post a link to the legally accepted EVIDENCE of “voter fraud” that was enough to overturn the results of the last election. Anyone? Anyone?