December 18, 2020
I have spent the past week talking with 15 different U.S. Senate staffers, both Republicans and Democrats. I was working with a faith-based group to better understand the possibility of new voting legislation to support some of the broadly adopted improvements from this year’s election: early voting, voting by mail, on-line voter registration. All of these improvements facilitated the largest voter turnout we have ever seen for both major political parties. Nearly 160 million citizens voted in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Truly this was an amazing accomplishment. From a democracy perspective, legislation to encourage using these new and proven methods should be an easy sell, but it isn’t.
What we heard from the staffers on both sides was a ray of hope and a lot of discouragement. One man, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate, personally controls the future of this legislation and nearly all other federal legislation. The way the current system works is that he decides what bills to bring forward and all, or virtually all, Republican Senators fall in line behind him. He also controls much of the money they receive for their election campaigns. By virtue of his position he can stop nearly any legislation from happening, no matter how many of us support it.
This system is wrong, unfair and undemocratic, and it must be changed. No one person in government should have this much power, not even the President of the United States. Regardless of the outcome of the two Senate races in Georgia, the current system needs to be changed. Our democratic system of government is built on the idea that different sides of an issue need to be heard before a decision is reached by voting. Mitch McConnell has taken that away from us and our country.
I am sure there are many ways to make this a more democratic process. One thought is for the President of the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader to form a small committee to discuss and decide which legislation to bring forward to the whole Senate. That would ensure that a minority voice is heard. If the Senate President is asked to represent the will of the people, it would ensure that we are all included in the decision as well.