Tag Archives: For the People Act

The Kindness of Strangers

The title of this post is borrowed from the famous last line of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, see https://bit.ly/3ge4ce1, but has no connection to it:

Blanche [DuBois] is led off to a mental hospital by a matron and a kind-hearted doctor. After a brief struggle, Blanche smilingly acquiesces as she loses all contact with reality, addressing the doctor with the most famous line in the play: “Whoever you are…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

It’s a line, though, that fits in every other way with my experience yesterday at the rally in support of S.1, the For the People Act. The site was in front of the Supreme Court, an appropriate location to address the need for protection of voting rights for all Americans. Typically for a Democratic rally, at least 18 people were scheduled to speak. It was hot, really hot, and, typically for this time of year in Washington, quite humid. Still, I’ve attended plenty of rallies and marches in all kinds of weather, so no worries. Wrong.

I arrived early and was pleased that among the early speakers were Senators Amy Klobuchar and Jeff Merkley. I secured a good spot for photos with a direct line of sight to the podium. The crowd was smaller than I expected, but vocal and passionate about the matter at hand. Some photos appear at the end of this post.

Returning to my theme, as I continued shooting, I failed to notice how “close” the atmosphere had become. As my lightheadedness become more apparent, I realized, too late, that I needed to leave. I summoned an Uber and moved toward the curb to wait, as the dizziness worsened rapidly. I bent over a few times and was thinking of sitting down on the curb when … I realized that several people had their hands on me. I had literally become unconscious for a few moments. Unknown to me, though, several people had their eyes on me, including at least one police officer and some others from the crowd.

They basically held me up, then pushed me down on the curb. The police officer told me I was not going to leave until they had a medical evaluation. I heard discussion of calling a nurse from the Supreme Court. A complete stranger handed me a bottle of water, assuring me it had been poured that morning from the faucet and was safe. Another person appeared with an even colder unopened bottle of water which I gratefully guzzled. Within what seemed like only a minute to me, Nurse Pat appeared, crushed to active two cold packs and quizzed me about my health and present state. She was really outstanding at nursing and her confidence in my well-being restored my own sense of stability: “Gatorade is your best friend now.”

The Uber car arrived, and the police officer told him what was going on. He made clear that I could not leave yet. The driver, named Michael, without hesitation, insisted on waiting for me.

After a while, when I had regained my composure and was feeling much better, the officer and nurse guided me into the Uber car and off we went. Turned out that Michael was wearing a Harley-Davidson shirt and was a traveler, so we talked motorcycles and Alaska cruises while driving. After a cool shower and some down time with more hydration, I began to feel normal again, though still a bit shaken by the unexpected take-down.

Looking back, several things about this stand out. One, I must be more careful about hydration in this Washington DC heat and humidity. Readers, take note. Two, how amazing it was that within seconds of my going wobbly, people who did not know me had rushed to grab me and prevent a nose-dive into the street. Then they gave up their water to help me recover. Nurse Pat was amazing, kind but firm and obviously very competent.  Three, and this lingers even now, I am upset not so much that this happened, but that I don’t know the names of the strangers who came to my aid. I don’t even know which police department the officers were with: DC or Capitol. I was too dazed to notice or ask. Four, the kindness of these strangers saved me from a potentially serious disaster. No one asked for anything; they just wished me well as I departed, carrying their spontaneous goodwill and generosity with  me. I am and will always be most grateful for the kindness of those strangers.

Manchin Both Ways – Political Double Speak

Senator Manchin of West Virginia, putative Democrat, published a statement of principles of sorts in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on June 6, 2021. https://bit.ly/3x5q9S8 In matters of this import, reasonable people will expect the ideas expressed to have been expressly approved by the senator. What, then, is the putative Democrat from West Virginia telling us?

The title of the piece tells us that Manchin is going directly in the face of everyone who is concerned about voter suppression in the United States: “Why I’m voting against the For the People Act.” Then, in a remarkable exercise in double speak, Manchin purports to explain why he thinks this is justified. To more clearly set out what Manchin is saying, along with the foreseeable consequences, I have arranged his statements in a table:

Principle                     Manchin Position                    Result                      Effect on Democracy

Right to vote critical to democracy For it Manchin looks good but …. Zero, just platitude
Right to vote is not about party or politics For it Manchin looks good but …. Zero, just platitude
Protecting that right should never be partisan For non-partisanship Good in theory but if Republicans are partisan anyway, law is defeated Negative
Elections should be fair, accessible and secure For it Good if parties agree on what is fair & secure; if not, Repubs defeat law Negative
Early voting is good For it Good if parties agree but if not, Repubs defeat early voting Negative
Party labels can’t prevent doing what is right For it Wrong; party labels often prevent doing what is right Negative
Debate about voting rights is about partisan advantage Against it Wrong; debate is abt voting rts or voter suppression Negative
Partisan policy re voting rights is anti-democratic Against it Manchin looks good but … Negative
We should get along For it Manchin looks good but … Negative
Repubs who voted to impeach Trump shoudd vote for the bill For it Manchin looks good but … Negative
Partisan voting reform will lead to more partisanship Against it Republicans should get their way so we can be non-partisan Negative
Democrats are just as bad as Republicans re filibuster Against it Republicans should get their way so we can be non-partisan Negative
Founders built checks/balances to force compromise For it Republicans should get their way, even though filibuster not in Constitution Negative
Absolute power is bad Against it If Republicans get their way, we will have solutions Negative – Republicans will defeat bill
Better way is to “find it together” For it Republicans defeat the bill Negative

Manchin goes on to argue that the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized five times with bipartisan support, overlooking that the Supreme Court, at the behest of Shelby County, Alabama, gutted the VRA in 2013, leading to immediate resumption of voter suppression laws that continues to this day. The reality is that Republicans who, with the filibuster at their disposal, control the outcome in the Senate with Manchin’s support, are dead set against the readoption of the key provisions of the VRA in any form.

Manchin’s enthusiasm about having one Republican senator supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is just so much hypocritical deflection. There is zero evidence to think Lisa Murkowski’s support is going to lead Republican senators to support the legislation. It is therefore completely transparent cynicism for Manchin to declare:

I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights.

That is politician double speak for “I don’t want this legislation but I’m going to act like I do. Trust me.”

Thus, Manchin, the Republican sheep in Democrat’s clothes, concludes with his rejection of the For the People Act and rejection of efforts to end the filibuster that gives the Republicans a chokehold on the separate voting legislation, all on the blatantly false premise that “bipartisan compromise” is still possible. Manchin’s hypocrisy is transparent. The question now is: what will the Democratic Party do about this continuing roadblock to meaningful protection of voting rights in America? The Democratic Party is never going to get the cooperation of Joe Manchin who is full of platitudes about bipartisanship and cooperation when he knows full well that neither of those is going to happen in the face of trenchant Republican opposition.

We are at the crossroads now – one path leads to restoring voting rights and protecting democracy, while the other leads directly to more voter suppression and, potentially, the establishment of a dictatorship as Donald Trump has made clear he intends to pursue.

Jennifer Rubin’s opinion piece in the Washington Post yesterday has it right. https://wapo.st/3puKvkV  Manchin’s objection comes down to the fact that Republicans object. His objection, therefore, has nothing to do with bipartisanship. That is a smokescreen for the position that the Republicans should get their way, which is the way of voter suppression and not the path to restoring the highly effective processes that were in place under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Rubin argues,

Manchin’s bland platitudes suggest he prefers stalemate to taking hard votes. The status quo leaves him with latitude to make holier-than-thou pronouncements to decry both sides.

Rubin proposes a series of specific actions to bring the Manchin play to a head. All make great sense. Democratic leadership must demand that Manchin,

(1) “come up with 10 Republicans for H.R. 4 and for a slimmed down H.R. 1” and  “four more Republicans to support the Jan. 6 commission.”

If he cannot, then his thesis that the filibuster promotes debate and makes way for compromise collapses and his role in promoting the tyranny of the minority is laid bare.

(2) spell out what reforms he would accept. Is requiring Republicans to hold the floor (i.e., demanding a talking filibuster) “weakening” the rule? …. If the filibuster is simply a means of thwarting any reasonable legislation, why is it worth preserving? What if the integrity of our democracy is at stake?”

Elevating the filibuster to the sine qua non of our constitutional system is absurd. It is not in the Constitution. It protects no constitutional principle. It does not constitute a check or balance on the other branches as, for example, a veto override or the Senate’s advise and consent power on nominees. It does not protect minority rights when it is used to thwart voting rights protection for disfavored minorities.

(3) “Democrats should compel Republicans to filibuster again and again the bills Manchin himself thinks are entirely reasonable. Bring up H.R. 4. Put the Jan. 6 commission back on the floor. After 5 or 6 of these rounds, Manchin’s bipartisan fetish may subside.”

(4) Democrats should also  “demand he present compromise legislation that has 10 Republicans. What magic formula is he aware of that has evaded others? Where are four more Republicans in addition to the six who would support the Jan. 6 commission?”

(5) “voters and voting rights activists need to confront Manchin civilly and peacefully, but with unrelenting demands for him to justify his position. An array of interest groups hurt by Republican obstruction and assaults on voting rights — e.g., organized labor, seniors, the disabled community — must turn up the heat. Most of all, Capitol Hill police and other law enforcement officials must demand passage of the Jan. 6 commission — or Manchin’s agreement to push it through with less than 60 votes. They and the widows of law enforcement personnel killed from the Jan. 6 events need to be omnipresent and unrelenting.”

The final word from Rubin, well and truly said:

The time for Manchin’s excuse-mongering is over. It is time to demonstrate his bipartisan notions are more than fantasy.