Ronald Reagan, our 40th president and a highly influential voice of modern conservatism, urged that if America were to progress, it must challenge the presumption that poverty was an individual problem to be left to charity. He denounced anti-Semitism and racism, and spoke out strongly for equality. Despite his disdain for ideological rhetoric, Reagan today would not sit quietly and watch America’s destiny as a world leader be further tarnished.
The U.S. Senate is a well-known grandstand for political rhetoric — especially for staging the tedious spectacle of the filibuster. What is a filibuster? It is a self-imposed Senate rule used to block legislation. It enables a small segment of society to impose its wishes on the general citizenry. Senate Republicans are going to use the filibuster in an effort to undermine the rights of all its citizens to vote.
Filibusters were employed to block the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. Both attempts failed. The 1957 filibuster was led by Strom Thurmond and lasted 24 hours before being stopped by a Senate vote. The bill was signed into law on Sept. 9, 1957 by President Dwight Eisenhower. The 1964 filibuster was led by Sen. Richard Russell and lasted 60 working days before a cloture vote passed with support of Democratic and Republican senators, with the bill signed into law June 10 by President Lyndon Johnson.
These efforts to prevent groups from voting were based squarely on racism in an effort to block the rights of people of color to express their views in an election. This cannot be tolerated in a democracy, for if it does not lead to an autocratic government, then it will at minimum fuel the growing oligarchic behavior seen in recent Republican leadership.
Yet today it goes further. How so? The strategy reflects the Republican Party’s blatant attempt to circumvent the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution. Their hope is to erect inequitable voter barriers and place power in the hands of a few. This can quickly translate into leaders posturing for a divine right to direct the country’s future.
The framework for the Republican Party movement rests on two propositions. First, they are trying to build on the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that new rules must be established to prevent such a theft from reoccurring. The second proposition, as stated by members of the Republican Party, is to prevent voters from making false choices.
It is easy to decipher this statement and unravel its true meaning: Republican leadership feels compelled to enact new laws that will hamper the voting by their political adversaries. This hardly sounds like the function of a republic built on the Constitution its framers created 232 years ago. Yet, for over two centuries — despite this bedrock concept guaranteeing the right of every citizen to vote — our country has stood on shaky ground in its effort to uphold the tenets of a pure democracy.
Thirty-two years ago, President Reagan asked us to become that beacon of democracy, to be the shining city on the hill. To do so, we must now and forevermore remove political power that, in the words of Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, “would shatter our nation rather than share our union.” The enabling rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution belong to all its citizens.