Republicans Are Rigging Democracy. We Will Fix It, With or Without Them.

Ben Ray Luján and John Sarbanes | USA Today
Dec 11, 2018
Editorials

In today’s polarized political climate, Americans of all political stripes are convinced that Washington is broken, out of touch and not working on behalf of the public interest. Our challenge is to prove them wrong.

We are not ideologues. We recognize that no political faction has a monopoly on good ideas. Even though bipartisan cooperation in Congress has become more difficult in recent years, we long to reach across the aisle to solve problems and improve the quality of life for all Americans — especially when it comes to lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs or boosting wages for working families. We believe that the country is best served when representatives of both parties work together to address our common challenges.

So we do not make this next point lightly, but the evidence is clear. Republican Party insiders have broken our democracy and seem content to leave it in that state. Democrats are determined to fix it.

Freed from constraints by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in cases like Shelby County and Citizens United, Republicans have seized every opportunity to rig the rules of our democracy in their favor.

 

Democrats want to fix the rules, not rig them.

First, they suppressed and diminished the votes of those who disagree with them. In Republican-led states across America in recent years, the GOP closed polling places and shortened voting hours. They imposed burdensome voter ID laws and then made it more difficult to obtain the required IDs. They purged registered voters from the rolls and made registration more onerous. They gerrymandered districts to protect and preserve Republican majorities in Congress and in state legislatures across the country.

Second, they flooded our politics with big money, allowing the wealthy and well-connected to invest heavily in campaigns and benefit handsomely in the form of tax breaks, weakened consumer protections and other special-interest perks. They weakened disclosure laws, making it harder for the American people to see who’s buying their democracy and easier for unaccountable foreign money to flow into our elections. They made a mockery of our nation’s ethics laws, prioritizing self-enrichment over the interests of the American people.

Many Americans will respond to these abuses by pointing out that Democrats are not faultless. They’re correct. Particularly when it comes to the influence of big money, everyone gets tangled up in the system — it’s the only way to compete and survive.

Even so, there is a crucial difference between the two parties: Republicans want to rig the system even more. Democrats want to fix it.

The first legislation that the new Democratic House majority will pass next year in the 116th Congress is a sweeping package of changes to our campaign finance, ethics and voting laws. We will shine a light on the dark money in our politics, and empower small donors to own elections and drive the agenda in Washington. We will demand that public servants work for the public interest, not the special interest. We will make it easier, not harder, to vote. Together, these bold reforms will restore and protect the voice of the American people in our democracy

 

We hope Republicans will partner with us. 

Democrats should not have to pass these reforms alone.

Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all renewed and strengthened the Voting Rights Act. The late Republican Sen. John McCain joined with progressive Sen. Russ Feingold to pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — the most significant update of campaign finance laws since Watergate. In response to the lobbying scandals of the mid-2000s, 411 bipartisan members of the House and 83 bipartisan senators passed an ethics reform bill that President George W. Bush signed into law.

Democrats in the House are ready to pass bold reforms. We sincerely hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will come to the table to help us restore power to the American people. But if the Republican-led Senate and the Republican president choose not to help fix our democracy, we will look to the American people to replace them with Democrats who will.