Editor’s Note: John Fetterman, a Democrat, is the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and is running for the US Senate. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is wrong to choose to vote against the For the People Act, a bill that would increase election security and access to voting and reduce the influence of big money in politics. To pretend that former President Donald Trump’s Republican Party will act in good faith to preserve democracy is naive.
In an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette, Manchin described the bill as “partisan voting legislation” that “will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.”
But it’s the very thing we need to preserve our democracy – the antidote to Republican attacks on voting rights.
The January 6th insurrection was just the tip of the anti-democratic iceberg that our country is facing. Our democracy is strained. From partisan gerrymandering and unlimited corporate money flooding our elections to voter suppression legislation, the Republican Party, aligned with Trump, has waged a war on our democracy.
If I were in the Senate now, my “yes” vote on the For the People Act would not be about my party. It would not be about politics. This is about doing what I know is right, guaranteeing that everyone has the right to vote.
The contents of the bill should not be controversial. And the fact that zero Republicans have signed on to a bill designed to ensure all Americans are granted their constitutional right to cast a ballot says far more about the state of the Republican Party than the bill itself.
The case for the For the People Act is simple.
As a country, we have been drifting away from this fundamentally American principle of one person, one vote.
In order to maintain American democracy we need to tackle the problematic influence of big money donors, corporate political action committees and dark money contributions. We must put an end to partisan gerrymandering and the blatant attempts at voter suppression being pushed in Republican-led states across the country. These three issues have all led to the deterioration of democracy in America.
It is disgusting that some politicians in our country are blatantly bought and sold by corporate special interests and wealthy donors. In the 2020 elections, dark money groups poured more than $1 billion into elections through ad spending and record-breaking contributions to PACs. This needs to stop. The bill Manchin has opposed would totally overhaul our campaign finance laws and rein in the power of wealthy donors and institute rules to end dark money in our elections.
As long as our elections can be bought and our politicians see someone who can give a big donation as more important than someone who can give $10, our government will not truly work for the people.
Over the past seven months, the threat to our democracy has been as clear as ever. The 2020 election was the most secure election in American history, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. But that didn’t stop the former President from peddling lies and conspiracy theories about voter fraud, while allies across the country backed him up.
Trump and his big election lie incited the January 6th insurrection that left five Americans dead and put our democracy under siege.
Now this attack on democracy that we saw in broad daylight is making its way through state capitols. Citing the same illusion of widespread fraud, Republicans have introduced more than 389 voter suppression bills in 48 states, 22 of which have already been enacted, according to a report from the Brennan Center. This is the single biggest attack on voting rights since Jim Crow.
Consistently, these voter suppression bills show up in the very states that Trump put up some of his biggest and most pathetic election challenges. And the states that Republicans have targeted most just happen to be where the electorate is diversifying quickly – and where Black and brown voters most definitely sunk Trump’s chances, like Arizona and Georgia.
Right here in Pennsylvania there are 18 new bills or resolutions from Republicans trying to address the unfounded claims of “fraud” they say happened here in 2020.
They are even trying to undo the same election laws they agreed to when they passed Act 77, the state’s 2019 election reform bill, including also trying to limit vote by mail. But let me be clear: Voting by mail in Pennsylvania was a bill supported by almost every Republican. This idea now that they are trying to claim it’s wrong is beyond disingenuous. Luckily, here in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf and I will never let one of these bills become a reality.
And after 7 million votes and months of Pennsylvania Republicans frantically searching for fraud, all they found were a handful of cases, including a man who specifically registered dead relatives to vote for Trump and other registered Republicans charged with trying to vote in the name of deceased relatives.
Look at the facts. Look at the math. Voter fraud is not widespread. Voter suppression is.
But still, Pennsylvania Republicans have even gone to Arizona to visit the unfounded and pointless audit there. And now they’re calling for their own pointless audit right here in Pennsylvania. This is not only ludicrous, it’s dangerous.
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The preservation of our democracy has become an everyday fight. The For the People Act would make our elections fairer and make our democracy stronger.
The US Senate needs to pass it and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk. And when Senate Republicans attempt to tank the bill by using the filibuster – a racist mechanism so often deployed to suppress voting rights – then the Democrats must take action and abolish the filibuster to make sure it is passed. Some Democrats, like Manchin, who are refusing to reform the filibuster are telling us that allegiance to a flawed Senate rule is more important to them than democracy itself. They’re wrong
The Senate needs to act now. It is time to abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People Act. Our democracy depends on it.