Democrats say they want democracy. Haven’t we been this route before? Did it work then? Will it work now?
With the ever buzzing TV news channels featuring Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, the sentencing of Paul Manafort, and the aftermath of President Trump’s non-agreement at the non-summit held in Hanoi, you may not have noticed that the House of Representatives on Friday, March 8, passed a bill called HR 1.
Cohen’s testimony provided the most in visuals as well as sound. TV crews waited anxiously for a glimpse of Michael Cohen so their cameras could eat him up. And the non-event at Hanoi? Well, it was slowly choking to death because there wasn’t anything to look at, and few had anything to say.
Which is the problem with HR 1. A bill passed by the House. Ho hum. Where are the visuals? Train cameras on members of the House as they vote? Replay Nancy Pelosi with a gleam in her eye announcing the passage of the bill?
So was the passage of HR 1 inconsequential? Was it a minor event? Was it something we should give more thought to than most of what we see on TV news? Or was it major? We’re asking. We don’t have an answer.
First, what is HR 1? It is extensive in the elements of democracy that it covers. You can find those elements by doing an online search. But succinctly, to define what issues the bill is designed to deal with, we quote Fred Wertheimer, the veteran political activist who helped develop the bill: “We have a campaign finance system we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age. We have efforts at voter suppression we haven’t seen since the days of segregation. We have gerrymandering at a level we have never seen before. And we have a president who raises financial abuse and corruption issues we haven’t seen in generations.”
The bill, section by section, deals with each of the issues Wertheimer describes. In that sense, it is pro-democracy. Make the campaign finance system more fair. End voter suppression, but assure there isn’t corruption. The bill requires the use of paper ballots in order to avoid alleged irregularities with electronic voting. Gerrymandering of congressional districts to favor particular political parties has been well documented. The determination of districts would be done by a non-political body. There are provisions that would require more transparency from presidential candidates.
So the bill passed. But we have a caveat. While it does promote democracy, it also favors the Democratic Party. When more people vote, more elections go its way. The bill reduces the power of dark money in elections, but dark money usually is far more on the Republican side than the Democratic. In a number of ways, the bill is self-serving.
More importantly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he will refuse to allow the bill to be introduced to the Senate. Cancel democracy. Trash the Constitution. One man can stonewall the legislative process and kill a bill that was subject to long debate in the House, with many amendments proposed and dealt with. In addition, President Trump has announced he will veto the bill if it ever reaches him. Perhaps the House could override a veto. The Senate? Don’t ask.
For us, with our support of democracy, HR 1 is positive. But the House-Senate-President process that is supposed to legislate for the benefit of the people? We are pessimistic about that working. Party over the people? You decide.