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Just to Summarize Where We Are

Every state has the same framework, as far as I am aware. A legislature which passes bills. A simple majority is required to pass the bill. That could be 21 out of 40, or 26 out of 50, or even 41 out of 81, if they had an uneven number. Just one or two more votes than half of the members. Then the governor signs the bill, if he or she chooses. Then it becomes state law.

There are only two national government bodies which can do anything about the state law, no matter how draconian, or violative of rights it is. No matter how much it suppresses voting, or bans abortion, or bans free speech or assembly, or installs microphones in classrooms to monitor what teachers are saying. Those bodies are the United States Congress and the Supreme Court.

The Congress could pass a law to override the state law. But in our Congress, the bill must not only pass the House with a simple majority, it must pass the Senate, where only 41 of 100 senators can completely block it by invoking a “Senate Rule,’ not in the Constitution, known as the filibuster, where they can just wave a hand, and it is invoked, and then the party which put the bill up can only stop the filibuster by invoking cloture, which takes 60 votes. And the minority of 41 senators can also completely prevent the bill from even being debated on the Senate floor, which is incredible, if one thinks about it.

So bills are passed by states which may have a very radical majority which passes laws which deprive their citizens of basic rights; but for the United States government to stop this, it would need a supermajority of 60 out of 100 senators, or 60%, which is almost impossible in this era. So the government cannot do anything about such state laws.

The Supreme Court could declare them unconstitutional, but the Republicans have for 150 years pushed for states being supreme, and the federal government having no right to overturn or stop any laws they pass. This is what the Democrats of the South were about pre-Civil War, and then the parties switched positions around 1876, and the Hayes vs. Tilden election. Republicans are against any federal attempts to pass laws which overrule or negate state laws. Further, Republicans have in the last 30 years only nominated Supreme Court justices who believe in “state’s rights above all,” and are now even invalidating orders made by agencies such as OSHA, which was created by an Act of Congress fifty years ago.

So, a bare majority needed to pass laws in a state. But 60 senators out of 100 needed to overrule it by a federal law. And a Supreme Court which will always let the state laws stand, even if they involve blatant gerrymandering of districts or voter suppression.

And so we have a virtually complete negation of the federal government, just what the slave states wanted, and ended up seceding and fighting a Civil War because they were not sufficiently getting.

The Congress cannot pass any meaningful law now, outside of budgets, because 41 senators can block any bill. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema say that this is good, it protects the minority. But the idea undergirding this or any country’s Constitution, is that a national legislature is supposed to be able to pass laws. The filibuster makes it impossible, when one party simply votes en bloc against any bill that the other party brings up. Nothing is accomplished, except naming post offices. There are no federal laws passed.

This is what the “state’s rights” slaveowners wanted in the early 19th century, and what the segregationists kept demanding in the early 20th century. They walked out of the Democratic Convention in 1948. They refused to comply with integration laws in the 1950’s. They do not want any governmental laws limiting their ability to segregate, vote suppress, gerrymander, flout health protocols. They have the Senate filibuster to make sure that no such laws can be passed; and they have the Radical Right Supreme Court to block any government laws, orders, or agencies from countermanding the state laws passed by perhaps one or two votes in a given state.

So we do not have a workable political system, as long as this goes on. The federal government is stymied, robbed of the power that the Founders intended to give it, that any rational democratic government system would give it.

Why create a government if it cannot pass laws? What is “representative democracy,” if the people cannot vote for legislators and executives to propose and pass laws that they elected them to do? If 70% of the American electorate wanted voting rights, but the 30% that didn’t, were able to elect just 41 of the 100 senators, because they held a majority in certain states, there would be no voting rights. And if that minority somehow could not get 41 senators to filibuster any bill that the popular majority was for, the Supreme Court has now been set up to block it, and also block any governmental order trying to enact the popular will.

So all the impassioned rhetoric of people about “the great American democracy,” and “Constitutional rights,” is now just pretentious sanctimony, it has no actual meaning. The Congress has been neutered, and the Executive Branch virtually impotent to order governmental policy regarding the health and safety of American citizens.

We are thus not a representative democracy, we are a collection of states which can each do what they please. And individuals in those states, who above all should be considered as citizens of the entire republic, are now powerless to affect the doctrines and repressions of the state they live in. It is as if we are living in 14th Century Italy.

This is what Manchin and Sinema are trying to cement forever in our country, no matter how much they ignorantly or deceptively try to deny it. And for once in their lives, the current American media should stand up and say this to everyone, and not hide behind their constant “horse race,” “optics,” or “both sides” nonsense. They are supposed to be part of democracy, too.