On Monday, June 21, 2021 a group of over 100 progressive organizations, including Indivisible Elmwood, sent a open letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein. It urges her to “publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger,” and support abolishing or reforming the 60-vote legislative filibuster in order to get the election legislation, known as the For the People Act, passed through the Senate. The letter has drawn media attention: here’s a link to a Politico article. Text of our letter:
Dear Senator Feinstein,
We, the 101 undersigned advocacy, civic, environmental and labor groups in California representing over 288,000 of your constituents, ask that, in advance of this week’s procedural vote on the For the People Act, you publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger. We also ask that you publicly affirm that you will do everything in your power to help pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through all means possible, including, if necessary, through abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster.
While in the past you have expressed openness to these possibilities, on June 10th, you were quoted in Forbes as stating, “If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it,” but “I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.” Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, responded aptly to your statement by saying, “We live in a two-party system. One of the parties is anti-democratic. The other is not sure that’s a problem.”
We are dismayed that such a considered and thoughtful Senator as yourself could fail to perceive the danger of the current moment to our democracy and our country. Below is a partial list of clear indications that our democracy is in serious jeopardy:
- The Big Lie of election fraud has led to:
- At least 86 lawsuits being filed as part of a broad based attempt to overturn 2020 election results and increase funding and support for the Big Lie;
- An unprecedented attack on our Capitol on January 6;
- The introduction of at least 389 bills this year to restrict voting rights in 48 states
- The passage of more than 20 laws this year that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Some of these new laws even allow partisan legislatures to overturn valid election results. Additional voter suppression laws are likely to be enacted soon since many legislatures are still in session;
- The belief held by 56% of Republicans, according to a May poll from Reuters/Ipsos, that the results of the 2020 election were the result of illegal voting or election rigging;
- The rise of hate crimes to their highest record in a decade, according to the FBI; Further, hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose 164% between May 2020 and May 2021, according to a recent study by California State University-San Bernardino.
- Our democracy is drifting toward authoritarianism:
- Those with the most knowledge on the topic – historians, political scientists, former officials from both parties, and experts in tyranny – are all raising the alarm that our democracy is in serious danger;
- Post-census gerrymandering alone could cement generation-long minority rule in multiple states and in both Congress and the Presidency.
We know remedies are available in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act of 2021. These critically important bills would restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and would protect our precariously fragile democracy from voter suppression and intimidation, extreme gerrymandering, and potentially even partisan nullification of the results of free and fair elections.
Since you co-sponsored both bills, we know that you fully understand the crucial nature of their respective provisions to the protection of our democracy.
These pro-democracy bills would require the Senate to amend an arcane rule called the filibuster since they run counter to the GOP’s stated anti-democratic interests and will surely not reach the 60 vote threshold. This rule, which is not written in the Constitution, exists to sabotage Senate proceedings, not to ensure democracy. The notion that it promotes bipartisanship only applies when both parties are vested in an outcome that benefits our country and its people. As uncomfortable as they may be to confront, the obstructionist and antidemocratic actions of the GOP make clear that democracy itself is subordinate to their desire to obtain and hold power.
Over the past seven months, scores of Indivisible chapters and other groups across California have brought this perilous situation to the attention of you and your staff via tens of thousands of phone calls, in dozens of meetings, in numerous op-eds, media briefings, protests, and postcards. We also sent you a letter on March 15 that was signed by 70 groups representing over 82 thousand of your constituents asking you to vote to end or reform the filibuster in order to pass the “For the People Act” and other critical legislation in the coming year.
We were gratified and reassured by your public statements in March and April indicating a new willingness on your part to change the filibuster should we see it being abused by the Republican side of the aisle, especially as it pertains to passing the For the People Act. However, your statements on June 10 contradict these earlier commitments.
Now that we have seen the obstruction of a bipartisan commission to examine the origins of the infamous attack on the Capitol and other bills supported by the majority of voters such as the Covid Relief Bill and Paycheck Fairness Act, the situation is clear. Our democracy is in jeopardy.
The hour is late. The risks posed by inaction and paralysis are irrefutable. Legislation must pass this summer if we are to counter the mortal threats to our foundational right to vote. We have discussed, informed, negotiated, and respectfully asked for action as your constituents. Now, in addition, we appeal to you as Americans who love our country and who believe in the promise of our democracy.
Senator, it is time for you to stand up for democracy – for yourself, for the citizens of California, and for the United States of America. Again, we ask that, in advance of this week’s procedural vote on the For the People Act, you publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger. We also ask that you publicly affirm that you will do everything in your power to help pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through all means possible, including, if necessary, through abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster.
(Signed by Indivisible Elmwood and 100 other progressive organizations)