One year ago this week, we started sheltering in place. I was still wearing my Warren Has a Plan for That shirt for many days straight, moping about Super Tuesday. Donald Trump was still President. It was not a great week.
This week is better. Here are some (political) highlights:
The Senate passed the extremely popular American Rescue Plan, which 77% of Americans, 59% of Republicans, and 0% of Republican Senators support. The bill includes stimulus payments, tax credits for children, increased unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, resources for schools, money for vaccines, and relief for small businesses (including restaurants). It does not include a $15 minimum wage. It is still an essential investment is our country’s recovery.
Joe Manchin acknowledged that the current way the filibuster is used in the Senate is maybe possibly a little bit not totally awesome. At stake is the For the People Act (H.R. 1/ S.R. 1) and soon the John Lewis Votings Rights Advancement Act, both of which are essential in protecting our democracy.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri announced he’s not running for re-election. He joins Republican colleagues from North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, and Pennsylvania in leaving an open seat. (Eyes on you, Grassley and Johnson. Let’s add Iowa and Wisconsin to the list.) There are no Democratic Senators retiring. This bodes well for 2022: we could pick up in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina; we can try for Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri.
Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the biggest fundraising committees in the Republican Party (RNC, NRSC, and the NRCC) to force them to stop using his name and image. He has also begun endorsing candidates for 2022, including challengers to incumbents that he believes demonstrated insufficient loyalty during last month’s trial. The Republican disarray continues.
Together, this tells us three things: first, Democrats are committed to moving important bills forward. However, they will have to do so without the support of any Republican Senators, even for legislation that has broad bipartisan support in the American populace. This means that, second, we will never meet a 60-vote threshold for necessary legislation: we must eliminate the filibuster, and we cannot reliably know if a Senator from R+40 West Virginia (…. let alone a Senator from Biden-won Arizona) will allow this to happen. Thus, third, we must increase (or at least maintain) our majority in the Senate in 2022. Given the number of open seats and the current state of the Republican party this continues to be possible. (And yet… can we win these seats without fair voting laws? Fair redistricting? I wouldn’t want to be a Democrat up for re-election in Arizona, for example, without the For the People Act in place.)
It’s essential that we continue to invest, not only in good candidates, fair districts, and strong organizing, but in the fundamental structure of our democracy. Last month, I talked about redistricting, this month it’s court expansion. These remain big challenges, but a year ago defeating Trump and winning the Senate were big challenges (especially without leaving home). We’re up for a few more.
P.S. If you’re looking to give time instead of money, check out All on the Line, an organization working to eliminate gerrymandering. They have virtual trainings and online volunteers opportunities for fair districting advocates. And, you can still always chip in to the Redistricting 2021 slate to support grassroots volunteering and legal support for fair districts.
Where to Give Now: Court Expansion
So many of us worked so hard, for so long, and gave so much, to wrest control of the White House and Senate from Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. The victories were sweet, if narrower than we would have liked. I remain hopeful that — despite Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — the Senate might still be able to pass measures needed to restore and protect democracy, move toward reproductive justice, and address civil rights, climate change, gun violence, and immigration. Yet, even as Democrats stand poised to enact desperately needed laws and regulations, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is very likely to enjoin or and strike down much of what Democrats manage to pass (just like they gutted the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance laws).
We do not have the option of not pursuing court expansion, both in the federal judiciary writ large, and in the Supreme Court. Otherwise, any progress will be tenuous and fleeting. Check out this video for why we need expansion, and how it can happen.
Take Back the Court was founded in 2018 to lay the groundwork for a bill to expand the Supreme Court and lower federal courts. When they started their work, no other organization in the US supported court expansion, and the idea wasn't on the map at all. Today, more than 50 organizations support court expansion, and court expansion bills are about to be introduced in the Senate and House.
Court expansion might feel far-fetched, but the bottom line is that we have to try — otherwise the victories for which we fought so far with likely come to very little. If you want to learn more, join me on a call on March 22 (details below) to hear directly from Take Back the Court. If you’re ready to support this effort, you can contribute to Take Back the Court — both the foundation (tax-deductible) and action fund (not tax-deductible) here.
March 11, 4pm PT: Join us for a virtual reception in support of Mikie Sherrill’s (NJ-11) re-election campaign. Despite representing a swing district, Mikie has been able to secure solid margins of victory after flipping the seat in 2018. Mikie was one of the first Congresswomen I spoke with this cycle to firmly commit to co-sponsoring the EACH Woman Act when it is introduced. Given the makeup of her district, I think her support can be leveraged to help ensure other Democrats share that commitment. RSVP and contribute here.
March 21, 11am PT: Yes, it’s time for Reverend Raphael Warnock (Georgia) to run again! January’s victories in Georgia secured for us a majority in the Senate; it is imperative that we maintain that majority in 2022. As a spiritual leader, a southern Democratic, and a Black man (reminder: there are only two Black men in the senate; there are no Black women), Reverend Warnock’s leadership is important to all Americans. We should invest in his campaign early and often. RSVP and contribute here.
March 23, 2pm PT: Join me to learn more about court expansion, in this conversation with Take Back the Court, including advisors Heather McGhee, Ann Ravel, Stephany Rose Spaulding, and director Aaron Belkin. (See above for why I think court expansion is an essential conversation right now.) If you’d like to join this call, please email me and I will add you to my guest list.
Donor, sociologist, researcher. Board member at WDN Action and Emerge America, and steering committee member at Electing Women Bay Area -- but all content here is mine alone and not on behalf of any organization or business. My goals are to help others find their networks and feel more comfortable and informed participating in the political giving space.
Currently reading: Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan.