For years, as a conscientious Christian, I have tried to understand the point of view of those fundamentalists, supposedly guided by nothing but Scripture, who seem to believe the Bible clearly instructs us that Human Life begins at conception; that homosexuality is a major threat to godliness, and that equal rights for women represents a rebellion against the divine order. Sure, you can nitpick your way through law, prophets, Gospels, and Epistles, like one of those “activist judges,” and justify this point of view, but it hardly seems obvious, much less obligatory for Bible Believers. Still, there is some support for their position in the letter of The Word, even if I personally think it violates its spirit. But the current effort by Christian Right activists and the Grand Old Party to suggest that conservative evangelical Protestant Christians have a religious obligation to oppose the use of Senate filibusters against judicial nominations goes so far beyond any conceivable scripture-based approach to public life as to be actively hilarious. (Catholics, of course, are a different matter, since their tradition makes church teachings, the Early Fathers, and Natural Law important sources of moral guidance alongside scripture, and indeed, keys to interpreting scripture. But American Catholic leaders, much as many of them may desire a judicial revolution that could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, are not likely to join this particular partisan campaign). The patent absurdity of pretending that evangelicals have to go so far in the tank for the GOP as to support their parliamentary tactics probably explains why the proponents of this campaign have adopted so paranoid a message. This is not just a matter of obedience to scripture or to God’s Will, they say: it’s an act of self-defense against a judiciary that hates Christians and is determined to stamp out religious freedom. Never mind that a majority of federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents; this is a life-or-death matter for faith itself. I think these fanatics are egregiously over-reaching on this subject, and are also offering Democrats a big opening for outreach to people they normally don’t talk to. It’s a great opportunity for Democrats to simply say to conservative evangelical Christians: we don’t hate you, we don’t support judicial actions that abridge your rights, and by the way, you might want to take a long look at the leaders who would subordinate your faith to partisan politics. Let the GOP try to explain to people of faith why the filibuster is the worst threat to Christian religious freedom since Julian the Apostate. And don’t give them the illegitimate ammunition of buying into the idea that Phil A. Buster’s fate is a struggle between religious and non-religious points of view.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.