An Open Letter to Sen. Joe Manchin | Column

June 29, 2021 6:00 am

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, pictured right, is currently choosing the filibuster over voting rights. Courtesy photo.

Dear Sen. Joe Manchin,

First, let me say I think your work on voting rights is to be admired. Also, I understand you represent a very red state and need to make sure those folks who vote Republican feel you represent them. But, if I may, I would like the opportunity to argue your point on voting rights and the filibuster.

As I understand it, you believe that voting rights bills should be bipartisan to pass, and, therefore, believe the filibuster is an appropriate weapon to prevent voting rights bills that do not have bipartisan support from passing.

I would agree bipartisanship is to be desired. Unfortunately, I think our nation is in a situation where one party seeks to deny the right to vote to those who would vote for candidates of the other party. They do this because they wish to gain and retain power regardless of how fair and free elections turn out.

Republican support of the “Big Lie” that Trump won the 2020 presidential elections could not make clearer that this is their strategy.

Imagine for a moment that the state of Florida passed a law that any ballot cast for a Democrat would not be counted. It would be pretty obvious that law could not be allowed to stand. None of the Republican bills and new laws reducing voting rights around the county go quite that far. But, we are dealing with bills and laws with the intent of making voting difficult for people likely to vote for Democrats with the hope that those bills and laws will have the same effect as a law declaring Democratic ballots won’t be counted — Republicans win.

This means that your desire for bipartisanship is a hope that the Republicans will quit trying to win elections by making it difficult for Democrats to vote. Again, this is to be desired, but it seems very unlikely, especially since it may be the only way Republicans can win elections in some parts of the country.

Preserving our democracy should not depend on support from people who do not believe in democracy if it means they lose. If your voting rights proposals gain support from enough Republicans to prevent a successful filibuster, terrific. But, if Republicans continue to oppose voting rights, as I expect they will, you will be faced with a choice of supporting bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship — or democracy.

Please choose democracy.

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Sarah Lewerenz
Sarah Lewerenz

Sarah Lewerenz is a retired labor lawyer and former member of the Democratic National Committee from Minnesota.