SINCE THE 117TH Congress was convened on January 3, over 2,000 bills have been introduced in the House and Senate. But the very first legislation proposed by the Democratic Party majorities in both chambers — making it both H.R.1 and S.1 — is the “For the People Act” of 2021.
This is appropriate, because the For the People Act is plausibly the most important legislation considered by Congress in decades. It would change the basic structure of U.S. politics, making it far more small-d democratic. The bill makes illegal essentially all of the anti-enfranchisement tactics perfected by the right over the past decades. It then creates a new infrastructure to permanently bolster the influence of regular people.
The bill’s provisions largely fall into three categories: First, it makes it far easier to vote, both by eliminating barriers and enhancing basic outreach to citizens. Second, it makes everyone’s vote count more equally, especially by reducing gerrymandering. Third, it hugely amplifies the power of small political donors, allowing them to match and possibly swamp the power of big money.
Make Voting Simple
There’s a popular, weary American aphorism (often attributed to the anarchist Emma Goldman, although she apparently did not say it): “If voting could change anything, it would be made illegal.” The meaning is always taken to be that voting is pointless.
However, the past decades of U.S. politics demonstrate that this saying is accurate — but in fact its meaning is exactly the opposite. We can gauge how much voting can change important things by the lengths to which America’s conservatives have gone to make voting difficult for the wrong people. read more…