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Robert Reich: A Note To Joe Manchin – OpEd

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Okay, Joe. Enough evidence for you? The two major voting rights bills that you support — the Freedom to Vote Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — have now been blocked in the Senate by Republican filibusters.

Of course you know that federal voting rights legislation is necessary to counteract the wave of new voting restrictions from Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country, all premised on Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which you support. 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. (Within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced it would implement a strict photo ID law, and Mississippi and Alabama soon followed.)

Joe, I’m sure you knew the late John Lewis, the civil rights champion whose name graces this legislation. I had the honor of knowing and working with him, too. Nearly 60 years ago he fought for – and nearly lost his life in pursuit of – voting rights.

But without your help now, Joe, America might return to the ugly days of Jim Crow and its blatant discrimination.

On October 20, Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom to Vote Act, which you helped craft as a compromise bill. You had hoped to get ten GOP votes, enough to overcome a filibuster. But in the end not a single senate Republican voted to advance the legislation. The Freedom to Vote Act would set national minimum standards for early voting and voting by mail, create new requirements for groups not currently required to disclose their financial donors, and establish Election Day as a national holiday, among other things. It also included standards for states that require voter identification, something you said was your priority.

So what now, Joe? How much more evidence do you need that senate Republicans won’t support voting rights? How much longer will you talk about “bipartisanship” when Republican states continue their shameless campaign of voter suppression?

Or will you join other Senate Democrats and vote to abolish the filibuster — or at least carve out voting rights from it — so the current Democratic majority in the Senate can enact these important voting rights laws? (Kyrsten Sinema will come around if you do, Joe, because she doesn’t want to be the single Democratic holdout.)

Joe, you know as well as I do that the deck was stacked even before the post-Trump deluge of state voter-suppression laws. Registered Republicans make up only about 25 percent of the American electorate. But rural and mostly white Republican states like Wyoming (with 574,000 inhabitants) get two senators just as do diverse urban ones like California (with nearly 40 million). And Republican states have gerrymandered districts that elect House members to give them an estimated 19 extra seats over what they’d have without gerrymandering.

So without you, Joe, voting rights are dead. Without you, history will show that Republican senators were more united in their opposition to voting rights than Democratic senators were in their support of them. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, do you Joe?

Joe! Please! The future of our democracy is at stake.

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Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. 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." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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