Since Joe Biden first ran for the presidency, he has made it a core principle of his campaign that he is President of all Americans and would build a bipartisan agenda to move us forward in a post-pandemic world. I support this notion. I contend that it is only when we build a broadly based consensus that we can meet the challenges that face us as a people. Candidly, with the Republican Party as currently constituted, this bipartisan precondition for action has become increasingly untenable.
The party of “no” has responded to virtually all of President Biden’s policy proposals with a negatively knee-jerk consistency that is startling. Time and again, Mitch McConnell has stood before microphones to announce that Biden proposals—on covid funding, on unemployment benefits, on infrastructure, on voting rights—would find no support among Senate Republicans.
But the latest example of this “strategy” moves us beyond the pale. The Senate voted this week on a strictly partisan basis not to consider debate on a new voting rights bill, passed by the House that “would constitute the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections since the 1960s.” It should be noted that this was NOT a vote on the bill itself, but simply on debating the bill on the Senate floor.
The fifty no votes on this resolution make a mockery of the description of the Senate as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” At a time when millions of citizens, mostly in marginalized communities, believe access to the ballot box is being threatened, why shouldn’t the Senate consider the House-passed voting rights bill? In a day when Republican-controlled bodies in 43 states have put forth more than 250 bills that restrict access to voting under the guise of election security, why isn’t this a national priority? The trumped-up (pun intended) issue over election security continues to be ginned up by the former President and his acolytes who contend (still!) that the last election was stolen and that Joe Biden is not the legitimate President.
It is embarrassing that this conversation still garners headlines after almost eight months since the election. As Republicans dwell on this fantasy—supported by increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories—important issues of national security like gun violence, climate change, systemic racism, global tensions—go unattended.
I have great respect for people who run for and serve in public office. It is both daunting and stressful to manage conflicting priorities in order to do the work of the people. But I cannot fathom how Republican legislators can face the scrutiny of the media, let alone their constituencies, without being embarrassed by their unending focus on election fraud (not to mention such “pressing” issues as Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head) while large portions of this country are concerned about access to the most basic of all democratic institutions—the right to vote. At the very least, let’s have the conversation.
I concur with Joe Biden that the best way to address the many challenges that confront us, is by building a bipartisan consensus. But it is time for Democrats to move forward on their own. Time is running out. Once fall is upon us, the focus will shift to navigating the 2022 mid-terms. Let’s see how much gets done then.