The House and Senate Democrats have passed strengthening democracy For the people’s law a top priority. Given our intense partisan divisions, it is not surprising that the Republicans have not come on board yet. However, this is not and should not be a partisan problem. There are good reasons for principled Republicans to join the For the People Act, just as many Republicans in Congress adopted the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s.
Like these historical laws, the For the People Act is about moving us to a “more perfect union”. It contains provisions to protect voting rights and facilitate voting, to reduce the power of big bucks in politics, and to prevent gerrymandering, which gives unfair political power to people who did not deserve it at the ballot box and denies representation to others they deserve.
The ideas in the For the People Act are supported by two-thirds of the American people, an extraordinary level of consensus in our partisan days. This is the time to strengthen our national commitment to a broader and more representative democracy.
We are just a few years from the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The war with England was already underway when this Manifesto for Freedom and Individual Freedom was signed, printed, distributed and read in public places. It inspired many Americans to stand up for independence.
Many of the same people who risked their lives fighting the world’s most powerful armed forces have been disenfranchised in the country in which they helped. Almost all state laws restricted the right to vote to white men who owned property or paid taxes.
Within a few years of the adoption of the Constitution, some people began to understand the wisdom of making our Constitutional Republic more inclusive and democratic and took small steps in that direction. New states joined with no ownership requirements and were abolished by all states in 1856. In the 100 years after the Civil War, the right to vote was extended to black men, women, and Native Americans. In 1943, the Chinese Racist Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed.
To understand the “we, the people” of the Constitution all The people have been a long, often brutal and sometimes bloody battle against those who viewed any expansion of the franchise as a threat.
And unfortunately, these struggles continue today, more than half a century after the passage of solid civil and voting rights legislation. We still have political leaders who are trying to maintain or strengthen their power by not allowing others to participate.
But that is not a strategy for a healthy democracy. And it is not an effective long-term strategy for a political party, considering that this country is about to hit another milestone.
For decades, our country has become more racially, ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse. Around sometime 2045If not sooner, non-Hispanic White Americans will no longer be a majority. White Christians have already ceased to be a majority.
While some people see this diversification as a threat to a real or imaginary America of the past, others, including my white father, embrace it.
If the US is a so-called “majority minority country”, that is, if no individual group is demographically a majority, all groups must work together with others to be democratically successful. Our growing diversity can either lead to increased conflict or provide an incentive for respectful pluralism and increased political engagement.
Any political party and movement that is not based on exclusion should work actively to become more inclusive and welcome the full participation of all people. They should not tie their identity and future to a restrictive vision of democracy that is doomed to fail.
According to federal officials, the 2020 election was the safest in the history of the country. A record number of Americans participated despite the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. But instead of celebrating this citizen participation, too many state lawmakers rely on false claims about electoral fraud to try to pass new restrictions on voting. They plan to manipulate the restructuring process in such a way that a meaningful representation of communities is violated in order to maximize their own power.
That kind of response is a throwback to the Jim Crow era. It represents our past, not the possibility for our future.
It is time for good faith people, regardless of political party, to work for a future in which all Americans are encouraged and empowered to participate in the civil life of their community and country. It’s time to pass the For the People Act.