We can’t wait for bipartisanship — scrap the filibuster already
Thank you for reporter Jess Bidgood’s article “US should look in mirror on democracy, some say” (Page A1, Dec. 9) on the alarm being sounded by advocates for democracy and their calls for passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which are threatened by a filibuster in the Senate.
In 1890, a federal pro-democracy bill fell to a Senate filibuster, and Southern states proceeded to violate the voting rights of Black Americans for the next 75 years. Those years were marked by horrific violence and extreme deprivation. Being rendered powerless isn’t pretty.
Today, pro-democracy legislation languishes because Senate Republicans refuse to pass it while a handful of Democrats insist that it pass on a bipartisan basis. But here’s the problem. Democracy is a principle. The Constitution is a principle. Bipartisanship is just a strategy — a strategy that appears in this case to no longer work in the service of American principles.
We need a new strategy. I implore every Democratic senator to stop pretending that (obviously unattainable) bipartisanship is on a par with protecting our endangered democracy, and to scrap the filibuster and get these bills passed.
Our country needs its own summit for democracy
I was astonished to read the op-ed by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asserting that the American experiment in democracy “hangs in the balance” while we try to address issues of kleptocracy, criminality, and authoritarianism from external adversaries, i.e., other countries, as part of President Biden’s recent summit (“Summit for Democracy will follow the money,” Dec. 6). I’m more concerned about the authoritarian shift in this country by means of Republicans’ attempts to destabilize our democracy through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and undermining Americans’ belief in the accuracy of election results.
We can’t take an independent judiciary for granted
Scot Lehigh is right to praise courts for the vital role they play in holding accountable those who traffic in untruths in ways that violate the law and cause harm to others (“Courts reveal truths, rogues, rascals,” Opinion, Dec. 8). A strong and independent judiciary is an essential feature of our democracy. Courts have the ability to keep private actors and government officials alike within the boundaries of valid laws and the Constitution.
Americans cannot take for granted the importance of an independent judiciary. Recent history in Turkey, Poland, Venezuela, and elsewhere shows that judiciaries can be undermined, hollowed out, or populated with puppets who put service of particular ideologies or political parties ahead of the rule of law. When citizens lose confidence that disputes will be settled by courts based on fair principles and free from bias, trust in government erodes. Our 2019 report on judicial independence emphasized that the success of our system relies on the appointment of qualified judges with demonstrated capacity to decide cases in keeping with the facts and the law, regardless of political pressure or influence.
Of course, as Lehigh states, judges are not infallible, and we may not agree with the outcome of every case. As we noted in our 2019 report, mechanisms for judicial accountability, including the transparency of court proceedings and adherence to ethical rules, promote confidence in the integrity of courts. All of our rights depend on sustaining the role of an independent judiciary capable of separating misinformation and distortions from fact and truth.
Renée Landers and Lisa Goodheart
Boston Bar Association
Democrats’ long game is altogether different from that of GOP
Radio and newspaper coverage of the Democrats’ new spending observes that voters aren’t noticing the impact of all the money that’s already been spent in direct payments and aren’t appreciating the potential impact of plans for infrastructure renewal, expanded Internet access, decarbonization and energy efficiency of transportation, and the like.
This is the Democrats’ version of the long game. The Republicans’ version focused on building state legislative majorities in 2010. This enabled them, then and again in 2020, to gerrymander congressional districts and then legislate voter suppression measures. Their long game is to secure minority rule, and they’ve done a good job at it.
What we’re seeing now is the Democrats’ version. It took a generation for Social Security and Medicare to become foundations of our society, now broadly accepted by all but the most ideological extreme. Likewise, it took 10 years for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to secure its position in our political culture. Democrats are doing it again with these spending bills. They may not turn the tide electorally in 2022 or even in 2024, but they’re banking on the eventuality that the programs and physical changes these laws establish will eventually make their case.
Like any long game, the outcome isn’t assured. But it appears to be the strategy.