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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Scher: White House Strategy to Work Around State Voter Suppression Laws Has Merit, But Could Also Hurt Dems in Midterm Elections

Bill Scher writes at Real Clear Politics:

Last week Vice President Kamala Harris announced that, to counter the spate of restrictive voting measures which have been enacted in several Republican-controlled states, the Democratic National Committee would spend $25 million on “tools and technology to register voters, to educate voters, to turn out voters, to protect voters.”

In  remarks at Howard University, Harris said, “People say, ‘What’s the strategy?’” to which she answered, “We are going to assemble the largest voter protection team we have ever had sure to ensure that all Americans can vote and have your vote counted in a fair and transparent process.”

Few Democrats would argue against the mobilization of the largest ‘voter protection team’ ever, given the all-out GOP voter suppression campaign, which has produced dozens of vote-smothering laws in state legislatures across the U.S. However, many Democrats strongly believe a successful strategy must include putting more muscle in the campaign to pass voting rights reforms at the national level. As Scher writes,

Strikingly, Harris did not mention as part of the strategy enactment of the For the People Act, the voting rights legislation Democrats passed in the House but cannot get around the filibuster in the Senate. After Harris’ Howard speech and a West Wing meeting with President Biden, voting rights advocates were not soothed. “There is no substitute for federal legislative action,” said Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice. Several demanded Biden use his bully pulpit more aggressively. Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said, “I told the president: We will not be able to litigate our way out of this threat to black citizenship. We must have the president use his voice.”

Democratic members of Congress are also pressuring Biden to not only push for the voting rights bill, but also a weakening of the filibuster in order to pass the bill. In an interview with Politico, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Biden should “pick up the phone and tell [Sen.] Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should do a carve-out’’” of the filibuster, which means forbidding the tactic when legislation is on the Senate floor related to constitutional rights.

Scher notes, “according to reporting by The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein, the Biden administration doesn’t have the same sense of impending doom. “Although White House officials consider the laws offensive from a civil-rights perspective,” he wrote, “they do not think most of those laws will advantage Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections as much as many liberal activists fear….Brownstein interviewed one anonymous White House official, who noted Biden’s ability to navigate the voting laws in 2020.  “Show us what the rules are and we will figure out a way to educate our voters and make sure they understand how they can vote and we will get them out to vote,” said this Biden aide.”

Scher write further in support of the ‘work-around’ strategy, “Democrats can and have overcome Republican-backed restrictive voting laws. In particular, academic research shows that strict laws requiring ID to vote have outright backfired on Republicans by firing up the Democratic base…The Republican intent behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, but the impact to date has been negligible.”

However, Scher concludes, “If Democrats are to make history and keep their congressional majorities, their ranks cannot be demoralized. It’s time for the Biden administration to talk straight to the Democratic base.”

Dems have no choice, but to plan and fund an exensive ‘work-around’ strategy. But major Democratic constituencies are also demanding a more energetic full-court Biden Administration press on key senators for national voting rights reforms, along with a voting rights ‘carve-out’ for filibuster reform needed to enact both bills. Such a double-pronged strategy could shore up Democratic unity, leading up to 2022.

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