Perception-wise, the biggest issue facing this proposed legislation are the lies that Donald Trump and many Republicans have spun about our elections for the last four-plus years, particularly accusations of voter fraud following his election loss. If roughly 40% of all voters believe that the election was stolen by Democrats, and their response to this ‘injustice’ is to require Voter ID and to restrict mail-in-voting access to only military members and the infirm…well, nobody should be surprised that they are screaming bloody murder at Democrat’s attempts to prohibit both of those things.
This isn’t to say we as a country should avoid doing what is necessary in regards to our elections just to accommodate those who have been duped by charlatans and con-men into believing things that aren’t true, especially when it is their party’s leaders who are attempting to meddle with future election results. There is a very real conflict of ideas going on over who gets to vote and how. Sadly, up to now, it is one Republicans with their fairy-tales of illegitimate voters stealing elections have been dominating.
Because the GOP is married to a strategy of limiting access to voting and selecting their voters via gerrymandering, odds are slim Democrats will get even a single GOP Senator to vote for this legislation, much less the ten needed to overcome the Senate filibuster. Thus, the only way Democrats can pass this bill is if they abolish the filibuster, which three Senators (Manchin, Sinema and Feinstein) have already indicated they are unwilling to do.
Democrats have to know all this, which calls into question their motivation. Are they actually trying to pass legislation to strengthen our democracy and are just this inept at strategy, or is the whole thing purely performative? If it is a performance, is it designed to aid states in their own efforts to fight off Republican attacks on voting rights, or is it to simply good optics for their supporters, thus aiding their electoral efforts in 2022 & 2024? Possibly the former, almost certainly the latter.
On March 7th, President Biden weighed in on this issue with an executive order designed to make the federal mechanisms of voting more accessible. Not to minimize this, because a president using his pulpit to highlight an issue is no small thing, but this too is more optics than substance. This order will do nothing to undermine the restrictions Republicans are attempting to enact in states across the country to limit the access of certain people (i.e. poor, black and younger voters) to the ballot. Still, with federal legislation likely doomed to fail, the real battle will be taking place in these states and having the president bring attention to this issue can only help.
Granted, the six-to-one matching funds for congressional elections would be a boon for any third party, Greens included. However, the opportunity to actually win a congressional race on occasion should not have to come at the price of potentially being neutralized in presidential contests. Clearly, Democrats would like to discourage Green Party presidential votes, as those would most likely revert to them, but should that really be the goal of legislation designed to make elections more free and fair?
Regardless, as has already been pointed out, this legislation is almost sure to die in the Senate. So, again, what is the Democrat’s goal in all of this? Why push doomed legislation that is sure to agitate both Republican voters and leftists alike? The only thing that really makes sense is this is mostly for optics; to help them secure campaign donations and votes in future elections.
Backing this conclusion is the way in which Democrats have publicized the issue, where far more effort is being put into making sure politically active voters (and donors) aware that they are pushing this reform, with far less effort being made to convince the public at large that these reforms are vital to the well-being of our democracy.
Make no mistake, under no circumstances should Republicans be given a pass for the part they have played in the degradation of our election and voting framework. Their attempts to limit the ability of people to vote and to otherwise manipulate the electorate over the previous decade is shameful; the last four years under Donald Trump exponentially so.
However, if the Democrats don’t unveil some surprisingly brilliant political strategy for actually passing the For the People Act, and in the process strip away some of the more self-serving provisions attached, than it will simply confirm that this has all been nothing but an exercise in bolstering their own election prospects under the guise of reform.
If that is all that is accomplished when fixing our elections and campaign-finance systems is something that is so very badly needed – especially if it comes at the expense of alienating potential supporters and further inflaming political opposition who have already engaged in violence – well, then shame on them too.