Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vermont) said on Wednesday that he’s “tired” of discussing fellow Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) because Democrats must act now to save democracy — or face the public, come reelection time.
“I’m tired of talking about Mr. Manchin and Miss Sinema. We have got to do what we can to bring people together. The American people, I think, all over this country understand that now is the time to act,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“I will also tell you, clearly, we are constrained by the fact that we only have 50 Democrats,” he continued. “To my mind, what this next election is going to be about is whether the American people want us to have a government that represents all people, that believes in democracy or not. And we need a hell of a lot more Democrats in the Senate than we have right now.”
Sanders has, indeed, spent the last few months warning that if Democrats continue delaying action on vital issues like infrastructure or voting rights, they may end up losing Congress in 2022. Democrats are already likely to suffer losses in the midterm elections because the party that holds the presidency typically has a disadvantage.
Manchin and Sinema have especially come under scrutiny because of their stubborn and seemingly unending support of the Senate filibuster, even when it comes to vital issues like stopping Republicans from openly trying to steal elections across the country. Despite an abundance of negative news stories and mounting pressure from fellow Democrats, however, the two senators have only doubled down on their support of the practice.
Instead, the two senators have insisted upon passing legislation using bipartisanship, which Republicans have shown time and again that they are not amenable to doing. On Monday, Senator Sinema, in a much-criticized op-ed, repeated the flawed assertion that bipartisanship is the way forward for the country — and the very next day, Republicans blocked the Democrats’ landmark voting rights bill, the For the People Act.
“If you know of any Republican who’s prepared to vote to support democracy and voting rights, I’d love to see them,” Sanders said. “There aren’t any. That’s the sad reality.” The GOP instead is focused on perpetuating Donald Trump’s big lie about election fraud, he added.
“You do not have one Republican in the United States Senate who is prepared to vote to preserve American democracy and prevent these states from doing the terrible, undemocratic things that they are doing,” continued Sanders, in response to a question about whether or not there could be a bipartisan compromise on voting rights. “I say this with great sadness — this is not going to be bipartisan. Unfortunately, Democrats are going to have to do this by themselves.”
Recent research has shown that Democrats may be better off if they go it alone on important issues, as Sanders has suggested. An analysis of the 2020 election from Way to Win released last month found that Democrats didn’t get the landslide congressional wins they expected at least partly because candidates focused their messaging on their ability to reach across the aisle. In so doing, they missed an opportunity to expose the GOP as the dangerously right-wing party that it has become.
In recent years, the GOP has indeed become more radical than it has been in modern times. After Republicans blocked debate on voting rights in the Senate on Tuesday, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in elections. “This is not a federal issue,” he said.
As The Intercept pointed out, McConnell has previously been in favor of voting rights. But now that Trump and his party are uniting against voting, McConnell is falling in line behind the same tired GOP line about federal oversight — although Republicans don’t seem to care about big government when it benefits them.
If Republicans use minority rule to block the For the People Act while they pass voter suppression bills at the state level across the country, it could spell certain doom for Democrats and democracy.
“We can disagree on education, on health care, on any other damn thing you want to disagree with. But you cannot disagree about whether or not all Americans have the right to vote. And that right is being taken away from them,” said Sanders. “In my view, should we end the filibuster on this issue? Absolutely. This is an enormously important issue. Democracy is at stake.”