In an op-ed for the right-leaning Washington Times, People For President Ben Jealous makes a strong argument about S. 1/the For the People Act that the paper’s regular readers might not often hear. The Act, he writes, is all about empowering everyday citizens in our political process, rather than the wealthy and powerful – something Americans on both the left and right should support. Coincidentally, it turns out that when people are given that information, that’s exactly how they feel: Jealous’s piece comes on the heels of explosive reporting on a leaked call about the Act among operatives linked to Mitch McConnell and the Koch network. On that call, they admit that conservatives like the principles in the Act when they are given unbiased facts about it — so they shouldn’t even bother debating the facts, just use whatever power they have in the Senate to block reform
But Jealous’s piece is determined to lay those facts bare. He writes:
“With national politics at one of the most contentious levels in memory, areas of agreement can feel like tiny islands in a sea of acrimony.
“Yet one thing that the vast majority of Americans will say is that they do not want a government run by the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. They do not want working people and people without access to billionaires’ bank accounts to be shut out of running for office, or prevented from voting. And they definitely do not want their elected representatives in the pockets of big corporations…
”At its core, the For the People Act would throw open the doors to more participation in our electoral politics by citizens who are too often shut out. It would do this by breaking the stranglehold of big money and wealthy corporations on our politics, and by shoring up voting rights.”
Jealous goes on to outline how this would happen. And the timing couldn’t be more critical: while the For the People Act (which already passed the House) waits for action in the Senate, right-wing state legislators backed by corporate and moneyed interests are racing to pass voter-suppression bills.
The most notorious is Georgia’s, which among other things makes it a crime to give food and water to people waiting in long lines to vote. It doesn’t take much to guess which neighborhoods will have the fewest polling places and longest lines, and which voters will likely be discouraged. And Georgia is not alone. This year more than 250 voter-suppression bills have been introduced in 43 states. Unless federal legislation is passed to stem this tide – something the For the People Act would do – voters who are Black, brown, shift workers, women, young people, and people with disabilities will suffer. So will people in these communities who want to run for office, because the current domination of Big Money in our politics makes it hard for them to compete. S.1 would help fix that problem, too.
Jealous writes that like all bills, the For the People Act is not perfect. But overall it would represent a tremendous leap toward realization of the inclusive democracy we aspire to. Without it, we risk a worsening crisis in which deep-pocketed special interests retain an iron grip on our politics while voting rights revert to the Jim Crow era. That’s just not an option.
It’s time for the Senate to pass S.1.