As Democrats regroup after evidence of their overreach in Tuesday’s failure of HR1, here are three lessons Republicans need to themselves ingest before the next round. And there will be a next round.
The first: HR1 is not a voting rights bill; it never was. It’s a vehicle to directly assault federalism. This isn’t about securing the sanctity of voting rights, it’s about a rising and energetic numerical majority concentrated in our cities getting impatient with the constraints of federal union. And so, what is their natural response? It’s really pretty blunt: they want to pass a law to explicitly weaken that federalist system and create an America administered by majoritarian decree. Put more simply, they’re tired of Oklahoma and West Virginia holding them back from the post-Bill of Rights future they were promised.
Unconstrained from allegiance to our political union, this is their peaceful mechanism not for amending it the proper way, but for seeking a de facto reorientation of America’s terms of government absent the consensus required via amendment or convention. This is the literal intent of the law, voting is just the vehicle.
We saw evidence of this dynamic – the allegiance gap – a few years back when Democratic politicians shut down U.S. federal government services in January 2018 to bargain for privileges of illegal aliens. Federal government employees – our elected legislators – shut down the services you pay for to instead represent non-citizens they now claim as part of their constituency. That’s not partisan politics, that’s a core governance fracture of the same kind we’re seeing play out now.
The second: don’t engage on the details, it grants this Washington takeover an undeserved legitimacy. There are terrible and still unremarked upon Easter eggs sprinkled throughout this bill. Ignore them, they are distractions from the Big Lie of threatened voter sanctity. Notice the new Democratic willingness to embrace some slightly stronger language on voter ID. I could point out that even in Manchin’s version they still don’t actually require ID as any of us would know it; Democrats are currently debating whether a local utility bill is too high a bar or whether a written statement of self-certification can somehow be redefined as identification.
But winning the argument over voter ID in the short-term is still a loser in the long-term if it serves as the trojan horse for a federal takeover of elections. Democrats are now going to pivot to Manchin’s pared down demands on voter ID and other topics, then use the fawning press to paint Republicans as obstructionists again. This next round of Manchin Mania is about the same thing as the last round: ruining the filibuster or ruining the man from West Virginia.
If we change American history and grant Washington control of our elections, Democrats – as the party of big, Washington-centered government – will achieve a permanent majority. Put more simply, control the transfer of power and you will have a monopoly on wielding it. Federalism will not recover, and America will spiral into conflict unable to be ruled so centrally.
The third: call out President Biden’s role in our next contested election and condemn the White House’s low-rate alarmism. Biden is doing everything he can to ensure we have another prolonged post-election dispute. Yesterday’s statements weren’t just irresponsible, they are part of a pattern that if taken literally by his supporters are likely to lead to violence. And the fence around the Capitol ain’t that tall.
In referencing those who “sacrified and died” to protect our “sacred right,” and making clear the “fight is far from over,” Biden uses militant language of the type embraced by the softball field assassin in Alexandria and the street arm of the Democratic party that was geared up to disrupt a Trump win if things looked different the morning of November 4th. If you stood against Republicans yesterday, you “stood united for democracy.”
This is not the language of parties who are squabbling about some combination of campaign finance and voter security efforts. This is the language of a president who understands that without six weeks of bussing and third-party ballot collection, his party has alienated too many to rely on traditional turnout. Fighting it out at the state level – as constitutionally appropriate – is a sucker’s game if he can sell us on a federal takeover.
So that’s where we are as the Mainstream Journalists who serve as the PR wing of the Democratic Party take a step back and figure out their rebrand strategy. For once, maybe Republicans can stay ahead of the curve.