Representative James Clyburn (D-S.C.), whom many credit with helping President Biden win the South Carolina primary, is saying the quiet part out loud about HR-1. Also called the “For the People Act,” and emotionally tied to the late Rep. John Lewis, HR-1 would gut nearly every election security measure used nationwide. It mandates things such as ballot harvesting and prohibits measures such as voter ID at the federal level. It essentially takes all power away from the state legislatures to define election law, despite the fact that it is a power given to them specifically in the Constitution.
After winning the presidency, Senate, and maintaining a slim majority in the House, Democrats do not seem confident. They are relentlessly pursuing censorship, even threatening cable and streaming providers who carry the handful of outlets that do not take their preferred narratives in their opinion shows. Fencing with razor-wire surrounds the nation’s capital, along with National Guard troops, for threats that have never materialized. Democrats are also levying personal attacks against every Republican who questioned the election results and accusing Republicans generally of harboring a white supremacist view. The attacks persist despite the fact that several Democrats did the same thing in 2016.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, Clyburn gives us some insight into the behavior we are seeing. HR-1 will not pass the Senate with a 60-vote threshold as there is unanimous Republican opposition. Two Democrat senators have stated they will not vote to end the filibuster, which would reduce the vote threshold from 60 votes to a simple majority. This change would allow Democrats to pass legislation with straight party-line majorities in both houses. Clyburn told the world why there is tremendous pressure to change the minds of Senators Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin (D-W.Va.):
“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights. That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic,” he said. “If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights.”
He is suggesting that there be a work-around on the filibuster as there is for the budget. Congress just passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus through reconciliation which requires a simple majority vote. Clyburn is suggesting a similar carve-out for civil rights and voting rights legislation. This change would allow the Equality Act and HR-1 to move through the Senate with simple majority votes. Both are exceptionally radical pieces of legislation that Democrats wish to pass with no consensus.
Clyburn’s suggestion of new rules for particular categories for bills is worrying on its face. When Democrats are in power, they could then make an exception for any policy area Republicans object to wholesale. Democrats talk about the dangers to democracy, and they are the only ones suggesting eliminating long-standing institutions that worked for much of our history in the pursuit of consolidating their power.
Democrats know their hold on power is tenuous. It is undeniable that a coordinated and well-funded effort leading up to the 2020 election that removed election security measures occurred. It pushed widespread mail-in voting, as well as activist funding of election offices in heavy Democrat strongholds. These efforts helped Democrats win the presidency and the Senate. An article in Time magazine exposed these initiatives, and states are working on reinstalling security measures and prohibiting outside funding of elections. HR-1 would prohibit these measures.
Additionally, Democrats know the electorate is changing. As they continue to promote radical policies in the energy sector, civil rights, and other areas, they risk making conservative voters of all races more ideological. As a political consultant who worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign named David Shor noted in an interview with the Intelligencer, Democrats rely on about 90% of the black vote and 70% of the Hispanic vote to win elections. These percentages started to shift in 2020, according to Shor:
So when you look at self-reported ideology — just asking people, “Do you identify as liberal, moderate, or conservative” — you find that there aren’t very big racial divides. Roughly the same proportion of African American, Hispanic, and white voters identify as conservative. But white voters are polarized on ideology, while nonwhite voters haven’t been.
He added that the white college-educated voters moving to the Democrat Party are much more ideological and further to the left. This shift is a risk for a party that relies on voters selecting candidates based on racial identity rather than political ideology. It is one they need to avoid, according to Shor:
Ideological polarization is a dead end. If we divide the electorate on self-described ideology, we [Democrats] lose — both because there are more conservatives than liberals and because conservatives are structurally overrepresented in the House, Senate, and Electoral College.
So, the only way for Democrats to win is to flood the zone with election processes that allow for unprecedented voting levels, which their activist groups can encourage through ballot harvesting and other methods. They also need to keep the national discussions away from ideological issues. Republican leaders need to take note of both of these realities, as described by Shor and Clyburn. They must prepare to put feet on the ground if HR-1 is passed and develop message discipline about ideology.
Shor admitted President Trump persuaded minority voters by using ideological arguments primarily around law and order. Republican candidates must feel comfortable pushing ideological issues and cultural issues that appeal to self-identified conservatives in all communities. The trend that began in 2020 can expand if the GOP learns the effective tactics President Trump used to start to transform the electorate.