AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
As Congress returns at the beginning of a new year, the media and Senate Democrats are kicking off 2022 with a clear plan: squeezing every bit of political juice they can out of the anniversary of January 6—and in particular, doing so to advance their extreme agenda for a federal takeover of state election laws.
Yet by pursuing this cynical exploitation of January 6—and on behalf of a cause as explosive as that of fundamentally transforming American elections—Schumer and Congressional Democrats face a genuine danger: Are they once again letting the media guide them down a radical path toward electoral disaster?
The left-wing media is clearly in full-blown propaganda mode, trying mightily to link the issue of the Democrats’ own desired election “reforms” with January 6 in Americans’ minds. A prior generation of reporters and editors would not have gone along with calling legislation, that of a power grab by one party and an attempt to control elections by a “voting rights” bill. But like the label “healthcare reform” for the blatantly false promises of Obamacare or the news brand “infrastructure bill” for partisan spending handouts or, for that matter, headlines about “evidence of Russian collusion” for the Steele Dossier, the media is showing in the election integrity controversy why its credibility with the public keeps plunging.
But if Republicans have been slow to make the point about the media running interference for the Democrats under the false flag of “voting rights,” the GOP may actually find the media push, and their own ineptitude ultimately works to their advantage, particularly in the battle for 2022 Senate seats. Just as the Critical Race Theory controversy caught Democrats by surprise and has positioned them as anti-parents’ rights as well as anti-American, the election integrity issue is also building a narrative about the Democratic Party that could badly hurt Democratic incumbents this fall.
That narrative is simply that Democrats have underway a “rule or ruin” assault on the essential institutions of American democracy – the ones that guarantee Democratic consensus, legislative compromise, personal liberty, and civil rights through separation of powers. Democrats in Congress and the progressive activists have for years now, made such “scorched earth” threats – if things don’t go their way, they will abolish the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, alter the U.S. Senate, destroy citizenship rights with open borders, and now, undermine the sacredness of the secret ballot through a voting bill that assaults honest and fair elections by sanctioning such practices as ballot harvesting and massive mail-in voting.
The problems here for Democrats are twofold. First, D.C. insularity prevents them from understanding the depth of the public’s concern – as shown by polling – about election integrity and the need for proper Voter ID. The second is that because media approbation easily becomes a substitute in their minds for the approval of their constituents, few Democrats can visualize their opponents next October running TV spots that show them as allies of those who seek to impose one-party rule, crush dissent, and eliminate honest elections.
Thus, with their tendency to take their lead from the media at full throttle, Democrats mindlessly echo their arguments. As the Federalist’s John Davidson noted, the New York Times editorial page breathlessly warned over the weekend that state Republican lawmakers passing election integrity laws “have been trying to advance the goals of the Jan. 6 rioters — not by breaking laws but by making them.”
According to this narrative, Democrats must seize on the anniversary of January 6 to pass their own gigantic leftist takeover of state election laws—because otherwise, somehow, the rioters win.
So far, Congressional Democrats seem to be picking up the narrative exactly on cue. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has signaled this week that his top priority is the so-called “Freedom to Vote Act.” The Freedom to Vote Act repackages many of the same policies contained in the radical H.R. 1—last year’s federal election takeover bill that became a lightning rod for provisions such as banning Voter ID nationwide and mandating that every state allow ballot harvesting, which many Republicans say is tantamount to legalizing large-scale fraud.
After a high-profile hearing where witnesses testified that H.R. 1 would undermine election integrity and place undue burdens on state and local election officials, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin pulled his support last year, effectively dooming the bill.
Now, however, Manchin and fellow moderate Kyrsten Sinema appear to be on board with the slightly revised “voting rights” version—and Schumer is using January 6 as an excuse to eliminate the filibuster to pave the way for its passage.
In a letter to Senate colleagues, Schumer justified the election power grab by essentially charging that Republicans are a threat to democracy. “The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic,” he wrote. The Senate, he continued, will “debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Day, to protect the foundation of our Democracy: free and fair elections.”
Schumer had also planned on using the January 6th anniversary to schedule a vote on the bill, but was forced to postpone his plans when Democrat New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez took longer than expected to recover from surgery.
The obvious truth is that neither January 6 nor the Republican legislatures’ election integrity efforts justify in any way the extreme election law changes Schumer and his fellow Democrats are pushing at the media’s behest.
The laws passed last year by many Republican state legislatures, which Schumer labels a threat to Democracy, largely attempt to undo the illegal, unconstitutional, or merely unwise changes to election laws that many Democrat-run cities and states made because COVID supposedly required it. It is the Democrats’ “voting rights” agenda, not the Republicans’ “election integrity” push, that represents a truly drastic departure from historical norms by any rational standard.
This is where the media frenzy may be leading Democrats dangerously astray. For vulnerable Democrats staring down tough reelection cycles this fall, embracing this bizarre media narrative along with the likes of Chuck Schumer could quickly become politically toxic. There is little reason to think that House and Senate Democrats were elected with a mandate for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to unilaterally rewrite state election laws across the country, and to do so in a fashion transparently calculated to give Democrats an unfair electoral advantage, even while they ostentatiously moralize about saving democracy. The entire effort reeks of insincerity, cynicism, and extremism.
Moreover, the independent voter is not very happy these days with President Biden and the Democrat Party. Skyrocketing inflation, rising gas prices, soaring murder rates, humiliating foreign policy failures, and utter incompetence in managing our pandemic response has flatlined Biden’s job approval. In this political environment, Republicans are going to be able to make a very effective case that Democrats are undertaking a brazen and desperate attempt to radically change voting rules nationally because otherwise, Democrats would have little chance of keeping their majorities this November. So at a time when large majorities of voters are going to want to kick Democrats out of office, Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are going to be telling voters that in the name of democracy, Democrats won’t allow it. “We have to destroy American democracy in order to save it” does not make for a very popular rallying cry.
The challenge for Democrats becomes even clearer when you think about how a federal takeover of elections would play not just among the constituents of moderate Democrats like Manchin and Sinema, who don’t face reelection this cycle, but also vulnerable incumbents who will face tough challenges this fall, including Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia. If these Senators follow the media narrative down the path of revolutionary and unpopular changes to election law, they may soon find themselves the targets of a fierce voter backlash.
Nor is it clear that voters will back the drastic step of abolishing the filibuster just because Chuck Schumer trots out talking points about January 6. Critics were quick to point out that Schumer himself has said previously that eliminating the filibuster would be a “doomsday for democracy.” Now eliminating the filibuster is suddenly the only way to save democracy?
If indeed Democrats steer themselves into political danger with their radical election law agenda, it would not be the first time in recent years the Democrats’ media allies have led them badly astray. A similar phenomenon occurred last year as Democrats bought hook, line, and sinker into pushing Critical Race Theory, social justice, and “equity” provisions at every opportunity—only to provoke massive grassroots blowback from the most unexpected of people and places: parents at school board meetings. As Terry McAuliffe learned in Virginia, most Americans didn’t buy the prevailing media narrative that had fooled Democrats into thinking their extreme agenda was much more popular than it is.
Democrats made similar mistakes in 2020, when an embrace of “Defund the Police” and socialist economic policies—both done at the behest of the media—nearly erased their majority in the House. The trend has not stopped in the 117th Congress, as Democrats have pursued a radical agenda on granting mass amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, passing massive social spending packages, and a host of other far-left policies. In the same way, the media goaded much of the Democrat Party into a destructive and years-long obsession with Russian Collusion. Not to mention how the media’s propagandistic efforts on behalf of Obamacare delivered Obama a pyrrhic legislative victory—followed by Republicans riding the issue to three historic landslides in 2010, 2014, and 2016, recapturing the House, the Senate, and the White House.
In each of these cases, Democrat politicians made the mistake of believing the Democrat Party’s propaganda arm, the left-wing media—which led them to calamity. By all indications, they may be doing so again as they whip their party into a moral frenzy over “voting rights”—a federal election takeover which they insist, somehow, is justified by January 6.