On Monday's episode of "The ReidOut," Joy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discussed strategies for passing voting rights legislation — and whether it’s even possible given the obstruction we’ve seen from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
I’m well versed in the language of white, conservative obstructionism and its fruitless projections of goodwill. Manchin's and Sinema's acts are no different. The conservative Democrats' continual support for the filibuster has destroyed any optimism I've had that they'd agree to bypass it to advance a voting rights bill. Their obstruction would place them on the wrong side of history — not that it matters to them, apparently.
Joy voiced my skepticism perfectly last night:
Joy: Can you tell us any evidence that Manchin or Sinema has given publicly or to you that they care more about voting rights and democracy continuing than about the filibuster? Because I haven’t seen any evidence that they actually have more support for voting rights and democracy than they do for the filibuster.
Schumer: What I can tell you is they have made even public statements — particularly, Manchin — that he wants to get voting rights done and wants to figure out a way to do it.
Joy: Why should we believe that? They haven’t taken any action.
Schumer: Well, we gotta keep pressing them and pressing them and pressing them until they do. There is too much at risk here.
Joy’s disbelief is warranted. Manchin, of West Virginia, and Sinema, of Arizona, have both offered platitudes in support of free and fair elections, but these platitudes were offered in lieu of substantive steps they could take to protect democracy — like eliminating or bypassing the filibuster.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said history might inspire the two senators to come around:
Both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema said they believe in voting rights. Good. That’s great. And they are sponsors of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act. But to believe in it and not change the rules … we’re making it clear to them, Joy, that even a paragon who believed in the Senate rules, Robert C. Byrd, changed the rules nine times. And he said … ‘When circumstances change, the rules have to change.’ Well let me tell you something: The circumstances have changed dramatically with Donald Trump, the 'big lie,' the violence of Jan. 6 and all the efforts to take away voting rights.
Schumer is partially right. Yes, the national circumstances have changed. Specifically, Republicans have become more radical in their movement toward authoritarianism. However, Manchin and Sinema’s conservatism has always relied on them ignoring that fact in favor of their imagined world, where bipartisan voting rights legislation is feasible. Their willful ignorance isn’t deterred by fear over their place in history; if it were, they’d have supported bypassing the filibuster months ago.
Invocations of the past are not enough to pressure the two conservative senators. Democrats will need to bring more weight to bear if they want them to change their minds.
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