Opinion | What Senate Democrats Should Learn from the Texas Walkout Over Voting Rights

First, a minority faction needs to play an appropriate role in preventing an out of control majority from abusing its power, but that has nothing to do with an archaic filibuster who lacks accountability. In the weeks leading up to the breach of the quorum, the Texas Democrats used every tool at their disposal to get involved in the legislative process. They participated in committees, asked questions, encouraged testimony and proposed changes. On some days and nights, this participation in the process forced them to be present in the chambers until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.

Sometimes they even showed that they understood the text of the proposed voter suppression bills better than the sponsors of the bills. This became apparent when Democratic MP Rafael Anchia questioned Republican MP Briscoe Cain and informed Cain that the explicitly stated purpose of the bill, “to preserve the purity of ballots,” was in fact a language of the Jim Crow era was meant to prevent blacks from voting Texas.

Despite these efforts, the Republican majority in Texas repeatedly employed tactics aimed at preventing the minority party from becoming fully involved. These tactics included publishing bills and the conference committee report, leaving lawmakers little time to review the often significant and lengthy changes. The final version contained a Main regulation that would have made it easier to overturn election results, although this provision was not previously included in either the House Representation or the Senate version of the bill.

In short, the Texas Democrats in the Legislature have engaged in all ways that the Republicans in the U.S. Senate do not, and in ways that the minority party’s current filibuster rules allow the minority party to avoid. Currently, US Senators are not required to debate their positions when filibusting. You don’t even have to be there, let alone cast a vote. Last week, when Republicans banned the establishment of a commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol Rising, nine Republicans missed the actual vote.

The process used by the Texas Democrats should not be confused with that abused by the Republicans in the Senate. The former is an example of democracy at work; The latter is an example of a democracy in decline.

Second, when you are dealing with an opposition that has proven that it wants to maintain its power at all costs, you cannot hold back because of potentially negative consequences in the future. In other words, senators shouldn’t fail to stop bad actors today for fear that they could do worse tomorrow. The appeasement strategy never worked.

In the case of Texas, some Democratic lawmakers, as well as some activists, raised concerns that legislature exit could open the door to a special legislature and that a resultant electoral repression law could be even worse than the version that was ultimately passed. In fact, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has already announced that he will call such a meeting. Despite this potential threat, however, the Texas Democrats decided that it would be far better to thwart the current attempt to restrict voting and then regroup, even if it is two or three months later.

By doing this, and with millions of voters inspired by their actions, they could be in a stronger position to avoid a special session or future attempts to suppress voters than they would have Not Took a stand.

The same applies to the fight for federal suffrage and the demand to put an end to the filibuster. There are those who fear that ending filibuster will open the door for Republicans to do bad things when they regain power. But this concern about future opportunities ignores the fact that Republicans across the country are doing really bad things, especially when it comes to voting rights, right now. It is of little use to worry too much about future attacks on democracy while we watch democracy attack right in front of our eyes.

Indeed, there is a danger that excessive concern about what Republicans will do when they regain control of Congress becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These concerns will lead to paralysis and failure to pass important laws, and that failure will, in turn, create the environment for Republican victories. The only way to protect a balanced electoral system is to take bold action here and now.

Third, there must be a close relationship between the legislative process and the grassroots organization. While the decision by Democratic lawmakers to break the quorum has attracted most of the attention in the past few days, it should not be forgotten that the prerequisites were created for the grassroots to organize for months before the strike. Organizations like the Texas Organizing Project, MOVE Texas, and many others attended hearings, texted voters, and enabled phone calls to lawmakers. My organization, the Black Voters Matter Fund, worked with Fair Fight Action to learn lessons from our Georgia corporate accountability campaign, and groups like the Communication Workers of America and the Next Generation Action Network protested in front of the AT&T Offices.

This has always been the case when it comes to protecting and extending voting rights in America. Without the suffrage movement, there would be no suffrage for women, and without the suffrage movement, Lyndon B. Johnson would have that in Alabama on Bloody Sunday and eventually the Selma to Montgomery March.

To survive the current attacks on voting rights, the legislature and activism need to work together on the ground. The US House of Representatives has started the legislative process, and hundreds of grassroots groups across the country are banding together to campaign for federal legislation. From John Lewis’ National Day of Action on May 8th to the upcoming Freedom Ride for Voting Rights, which will culminate on June 26th, and other actions planned for this summer, voters and activists are doing our part. But we need help from the White House and the Senate.

In the end, The Texas example shows that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. The Texas Democrats realized that the current debate over voting rights went well beyond any traditional disagreement. The current struggle is existential as the Big Lie was backed up by a million small lies, including the recent claim by Republicans in Texas that an attack on the Sunday elections, used primarily by black churches, was the result of a “typo.”

In contrast, there is still a feeling in both the U.S. Senate and to a lesser extent the White House that senators blocking voting rights simply have to listen to the better angels of their nature. Even President Joe Biden, who has clearly stated that the wave of voter suppression legislation is an “attack on democracy,” did not put all of his office into thwarting that attack. Choosing Vice President Kamala Harris as the delegate of voting rights is a step in the right direction, but still a more traditional approach to a distant traditional situation.

With Democrats in Washington, especially those of West Virginia and Arizona, heeding these four lessons, there will still be time to pass the For the People Act (HR1 / p.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (HR4). , and cease ongoing attempts to restrict voting rights at the state level. But if they ignore these lessons, there is a good chance we have allowed the US experiment with democracy to be damaged, perhaps fatally.

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