There are times when it makes sense to ignore the political mess that is Washington, DC. This isn't one of them.
Today may have marked a milestone in how our democracy died -- not through a violent coup, but through two Democratic senators refusing to do away with the Republican filibuster of the Freedom to Vote Act.
This is the replacement for the considerably more expansive voting rights act that started off as the first bill introduced in both the House and Senate, indicating how important it was to congressional Democrats.
However, Senator Manchin of West Virginia, who often sounds more like a Republican (and currently is rumored to be contemplating switching parties if he doesn't get his way on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill) objected to the original voting rights legislation.
Manchin claimed that if he was allowed to craft his own bill, he could find 10 Senate Republicans who would support it.
Well, today zero Republicans voted to begin debate on the Freedom to Vote Act, leaving it with 50 Democrats in favor and 50 Republicans in opposition.
(Majority Leader Schumer changed his vote to no so he could bring the bill up again, which is why the final tally was 49-51.)
Given how avidly Trump and his Republican cronies are working to steal the next presidential election if a Democrat ends up winning, it's super aggravating that President Biden is putting so much effort into getting the physical and social infrastructure bills passed, and so little effort in passing the Freedom to Vote Act.
All that's at stake is our democracy. Sure seems like that should be enough to light a fire under our overly complacent president and Democratic leaders in Congress.
The Freedom to Vote Act is urgently needed to slow down the Republican stampede of making it more difficult for people to vote -- especially black and brown people.
A New York Times analysis of this issue, "Democrats Search for Path on Voting Rights Amid Republican Blockade," lays out some of what's in the bill.
The bill would set federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday, among other provisions. It would also mandate that voters provide some form of identification before casting a ballot, a requirement that many Democrats had previously resisted, although it would be far less restrictive than similar measures imposed by Republicans.
A Democratic fantasy is that once Manchin sees that the Freedom to Vote Act will never get 10 Republican votes in the Senate, he'll agree to doing away with the filibuster for voting rights legislation. I doubt that will happen.
Joe Manchin basically only cares about Joe Manchin, not democracy. He relishes his role as the conservative thorn in the side of Senate Democrats. And he wants to keep on being re-elected by West Virginia voters, which he believes will only happen if he acts like a Republican much of the time.
What's crazy is that Manchin likes to talk about how the filibuster is needed to preserve the Senate as "the world's greatest deliberative body."
That's a bunch of crap.
The Senate is one of the world's worst deliberative bodies, because the filibuster allows a minority of senators to prevent even discussion of a bill, much less a vote on it. And it's virtually certain that if Republicans ever regain control of the presidency and Congress, they'd do away with the filibuster in an instant if this was needed to pass right-wing legislation.
I realize that Biden and other Democratic leaders are in a tough position with Manchin. They can't afford to lose a single Democrat vote in the Senate. Playing along with Manchin is their only option.
But they need to play tougher if Manchin and Sinema won't budge on doing away with the filibuster for voting rights legislation. Every option should be on the table for pressuring these two Democratic senators.
Maybe this is too extreme.
However, I like the idea of telling them that their precious physical infrastructure bill isn't going to be approved unless both the Build Back Better reconciliation bill and the Freedom to Vote Act are also passed. I just hate the prospect of American democracy dying because a couple of senators wanted to keep the stupid filibuster rule.