If you’ve followed recent Democratic messaging, you’ll have heard that American democracy is under serious attack by the Republican Party, representing an existential threat to the country. If you’ve followed Democratic lawmaking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the threat is actually a rather piddling one. The disconnect, in this case, isn’t attributable to Democratic embellishment, but to inexcusable complacency.
In his first address to Congress, last month, President Joe Biden established three basic themes—each one invoked in a language of crisis and political urgency: “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” When it came to the third, Biden was both pointed and emphatic, tying the events of January 6 and the broader effort to delegitimize November’s election to a wider crisis of democracy. “Congress,” he declared, “should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away.”
Biden is far from the only Democratic leader to have made the connection. In urging the Senate to pass H.R. 1, which would improve voter access and election security, Senator Chuck Schumer (hardly anyone’s idea of a firebrand) said in March that state voter-restriction laws “smack of Jim Crow rearing its ugly head once again.” He went as far as warning that “if we don’t stop these vicious and often racist actions, Third World autocracy will be on its way.” Schumer hasn’t been shy about naming an antagonist, either, citing a “concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote” and even declaring that “we won’t let [Republican-controlled legislatures] create a dictatorship in America.” [Continue reading…]