Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Voting Rights Reform

Senator Joe Manchin recently wrote that he will not support the “For the People Act,” calling it too partisan. But he also wrote that he would support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has bipartisan support.

This coming Monday, we’ll discuss federal and state legislation to modify the rules and regulations for voting in federal elections. In particular, we agreed that we would all explore what “principled objections to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” might be. (The hope—at least mine—is that this exercise might help us move away from cable news/politicians’ talking points into a more nuanced consideration of the issues.)

Another exercise would be to put ourselves in a Senator’s shoes—what amendments, if any, to the Act do we think would make it better. (Needless to say, we should be ready to defend our suggestions.)

Here are some resources that Michael Sinclair identifed to help us get started:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis_Voting_Rights_Act (this is a summary of the 2020 version of the bill; I understand that the 2021 version is still in committee in the House)
  2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/4263/text (this is the full text of the most recent version of the bill)
  3. https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/against-the-john-lewis-voting-rights-advancement-act (dated 1 February 2021, from the Heritage Foundation web site)
  4. https://yubanet.com/opinions/fred-wertheimer-john-lewis-voting-rights-act-will-have-no-impact-on-state-voter-suppression-laws-enacted-before-act-becomes-law/ (dated 18 May 2021, from the Democracy 21 web site; Fred Wertheimer held several positions with Common Cause, the last as President from 1991 to 1995)

Is the era of small government over?

The debate in the US about a “small” versus a “big” federal government is as old as the Republic (see Jefferson and Hamilton, among many others) and continues today. A “small” federal government is generally understood (at least by Republicans when they don’t hold the White House or are a minority in Congress) to mean a government with powers limited to those expressly granted in the Constitution and with as small a budget as possible. A “big” government is generally understood (at  least by Democrats when they hold the White House or are a majority in Congress) is generally understood to mean a government with expansive powers and a large budget. Since Joe Biden was elected President and the Democrats gained (a bare) majority control of both houses of Congress, some now think the era of “small” government (which supposedly was what we had under Trump and his recent Republican predecessors) is over and the era of “big” government is here again.

Can that conclusion be supported by the facts? Did we, in fact, have an era of “small” government under Trump? How much evidence is there that an era of “big” government has now begun and, if it has, how long is it likely to last? Do our circumstances today call for a “small” government or a “big” government? Why?

Here are links to a few recent articles that may be relevant to the discussion:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bidens-push-for-big-government-solutions-is-popular-now-but-it-could-backfire/

https://www.rollcall.com/2021/05/11/is-the-era-of-small-government-over/

https://reason.com/2021/05/08/the-era-of-small-government-is-over/?fbclid=IwAR2orr8KYWheWMqn_G2jAYUb7zHzZLR4XDCsUPixPJY5y1a5iqtX8OmpkQw

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