by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Democratic opposition to legislative minorities using whatever leverage they have to block legislation is highly situational.
In Washington, D.C., where Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, the Senate filibuster is portrayed as a Jim Crow relic that is profoundly undemocratic.
In Austin, Texas, where Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature, House Democrats’ walking out to prevent the passage of a bill with majority support is portrayed as a heroic act preserving our democracy.
The bill in question is an election-reform measure that Democrats allege is the latest instance of state-level GOP voter suppression.
The only recourse, they say, is at the federal level. The Senate filibuster should be eliminated — so much for the rights of legislative minorities — and then the narrowest-possible Democratic Senate majority should pass H.R.1, overriding long-standing, duly-passed election laws all around the country and essentially federalizing our elections.
Democracy, they tell us, demands nothing less.
To the contrary, this would be a power grab carried out under blatantly false pretenses.
The Texas bill is no more a voter-suppression measure than the Georgia election law that passed a few months ago, which occasioned outraged accusations of the arrival of Jim Crow 2.0 that ultimately fell flat.
The least defensible part of the Texas law is its provision saying that early voting on the Sunday before the election can’t begin until 1 p.m., which could crimp the traditional “souls to the polls” turnout efforts of black churches. A Republican legislator says this was a drafting error. Regardless, the provision should — and almost certainly will be — changed.
The rest of the legislation is unobjectionable. It pushes back against what were supposed to be temporary expedients during the pandemic, such as drive-through voting and 24-hour early-voting marathons. Texas democracy was healthy and robust prior to these emergency innovations, and it will be when they are gone.