But symbolism is important in politics: Democrats will be communicating to the voters what their priorities are, what problems need addressing, and what they’ll do should they win control of the government two years from now.
For their first bill, to be listed as House Resolution 1, they have chosen a package of reforms meant to shore up our democracy against the attacks it has recently suffered at the hands of the Republican Party and the Supreme Court.
, the Democrats’ point person on this issue, wrote an op-ed for The Post, laying out the party’s democracy reform agenda, which is broken down this way: “First, let’s end the dominance of money in politics” with new disclosure rules for dark money groups and matching funds for small donors.
“Next, let’s make sure that when public servants get to Washington, they serve the public” with stricter rules for government officials and lobbyists and steps to undermine the revolving door between government and those seeking favors from government.
“Finally, let’s make it easier, not harder, to vote” with a new Voting Rights Act, national automatic voter registration, and outlawing partisan gerrymandering.
And we seem to go through a cycle where we pass reforms that impose new restrictions on the current prevailing vehicles for the super-rich and corporations to exercise influence over campaigns, after which the money finds a different way to move — from 527s to super PACs to 501(c)(4)s to whatever the next thing will be.
When I asked Sarbanes about the kinds of voter suppression efforts we saw in 2018, he said that something such as the bill introduced a few years ago by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
That bill never went anywhere in the Republican-controlled House, but it is quite comprehensive, mandating things such as extended early voting, same-day registration, automatic registration, paper ballots to allow for accurate recounts, and no-excuse absentee voting.
The one big missing piece is addressing voter suppression through aggressive purging of voter rolls, as Republicans did to such effect in places like Ohio and Georgia; Sarbanes said some standards on that issue would be included in the Democratic package.
While it’s true that the federal government has the right to regulate the conduct of federal elections, pretty much every last thing Democrats propose could eventually come before the Supreme Court.
The five conservative justices on the court have shown themselves to be hostile to voting rights, expansive in their solicitousness toward the needs of the ultra-rich to shape campaigns to their liking, and favorably disposed to any kind of voter suppression a GOP-run state can come up with.
Unsurprisingly, Sarbanes wouldn’t agree that any effort at real federal reform is doomed.
“At the very least,” he said, this reform package is “going to be a statement to the public: Every time you give Democrats the gavel, this is the kind of change you can expect to see.”
Done Katch’ng up but want to read more? Read more here.