The filibuster is not foundational to our democracy

Dear President Biden,

Just in case it was confusing to you that we were able to make scrambled eggs without power on Sunday night, we have a gas stovetop, which Laura kindly lit for me (if I absolutely have to, I can strike a match or use the flicker thing to ignite the gas stove but I’m a complete chicken shit when it comes to flames so if Laura is around, those jobs always fall to her). Generally I try to avoid using the stovetop because it’s gas and using gas instead of electricity in the PNW isn’t a climate-friendly thing, but when faced with an already long stretch of cold-dark that was going to stretch on who knew how much longer, the prospect of an unsatisfying, makeshift cold dinner wasn’t at all appealing. So, hot veggie-fied scrambled eggs were the thing.

Ok, now that that stray detail’s been addressed, let’s talk about something far more important that looks like you all are treating like a stray detail – voting rights. I just read Karen Attiah’s editorial in the WP and she’s got it right – the GOP is being utterly ruthless and shameless and the Democrats are being spineless in response. Here’s her opening sentence:

“On voting rights, the Democrats are bringing stuffed animals to a machine gun fight.”

Pretty punchy, isn’t it? She could have easily added “cute” to “stuffed animals” for further emphasis, but it was probably smart not to push it too hard, the visual is compelling enough as it is.

So which stuffed animal are you carrying into the fray in the crook of your left arm (assuming you are right handed)? Wait! – I know, it’s your Teddy Bear since it conjures the last name Roosevelt even though it’s the wrong Roosevelt. You all are so all about building back better with the infrastructure bills – which mind you, do have critically important goals – that you seem oblivious to the very scary fact that pouring such a foundation, no matter how righteous, in the quicksand of a severely endangered democracy is utterly stupid.

Now I get that you all are banking on “ordinary Americans” being so thrilled with the huge influx of federal monies into the public space that it will carry the Democrats through the 2022 election cycle such that the GOP can’t come storming back into power in the House and Senate. It sounds good – it really does. But holy crap man, as Attiah points out, there’s no amount of on the ground organizing that can overcome thoroughly gerrymandered congressional districts or built in allowances for the party in power to have their way with state election results they don’t like. In other words, it doesn’t matter how nifty the infrastructure packages are (assuming you can even get them passed), they can’t ever be shiny enough baubles to overcome entrenched anti-democratic voter suppression state “laws.” (BTW, it just seems wrong to call such things laws, but in 19 states and counting that’s what they are).

It’s commonsense and I know you know this, but there’s an order of operations when one is building something or remodeling. First – very first – one needs a solid, sturdy foundation, that’s absolutely non-negotiable. In a country that purportedly values its democratic creds and purportedly doesn’t want to lose those creds, those creds have to be shored up because you can bet your Teddy Bear that Mitch McConnell will tear up anything you managed to build back the nanosecond he/they weasel his/their way back into power through those nefarious voter suppression state “laws.”

So, let’s get clear – the filibuster is not foundational to our democracy. Voting rights and full enfranchisement are foundational to our democracy. Given the GOP’s clear signal broadcasting that they’re reloading their machine guns, it’s time for you and the 48 sensate Democratic senators to pull out all the stops on Manchin and Sinema’s resistance to dumping the filibuster around voting rights. No more stuffed animals – you all have got to step up and take this very real existential threat to our democracy seriously and use the protective devices available to you. We don’t have time – the planet doesn’t have time – for us to screw around on this.

May we safeguard our democracy.
May we all be willing to do what needs to be done to legislate real voting rights protections.
May those of us who need to grow spines, backbones, nerves of steel – whatever – go ahead and grow them now.
May we accept that the rest of your agenda won’t amount to jack without solid voting rights protections.

Tracy Simpson

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