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Rich Lowry / January 4, 2022

Chuck Schumer’s January 6 Cynicism

The drive to nationalize our elections has always been a sweepingly radical step in search of an alleged crisis to address.

On Jan. 6, 2021, rioters seeking to disrupt the counting of electoral votes breached the U.S. Capitol and rampaged for hours before order was restored.

This was a disgraceful spectacle that shouldn’t be repeated, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer knows just what is needed to respond to the moment — passing every progressive voting-related priority that can possibly be jammed through the Senate on an extremely narrow, partisan vote.

The defense of our democracy, Schumer maintains, demands nothing less.

The latest pitch for the Democratic voting agenda is more cynical and detached from reality than ever. We are to believe that the only way to counteract the furies unleashed on Jan. 6 is by imposing same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting on the states, ending partisan gerrymandering, and requiring the counting of ballots that arrive up to seven days after Election Day, among other provisions completely irrelevant to events that day or afterward.

If you’re thinking that Democrats supported all of this on Jan. 5 of last year and still supported it on Jan. 7, you’re correct.

Their agenda has as much to do with Jan. 6 as an annual appropriations bill or the naming of a post office.

The Democratic drive to nationalize our elections has always been a sweepingly radical step in search of an alleged crisis to address. When a version was first introduced a few years ago, it was sold as addressing “the vile voter suppression practices” of the GOP, in the words of The New York Times. The big lie of the time was that the Georgia gubernatorial campaign of Stacey Abrams in 2018 was undone by such practices. Now, the justification is the Capitol riot and subsequent GOP state-level voting changes that have been portrayed, falsely, as the return of Jim Crow.

In reality, voting has never been easier and voters have never had so many options for how to participate in elections, whether early in-person voting, traditional same-day voting, or mail-in voting. There are partisan disputes about how to strike a balance between convenience and security, but there is no reason that these differences can’t be debated at the state level, with the balance struck differently depending on the policy preferences of elected officials in each state.

Limits on drop boxes or measures to tighten up the identification requirements around mail-in ballots aren’t suppressing the vote.

The true weakness of the system that was highlighted last year on Jan. 6 is the poorly drafted Electoral Count Act. It should be revised to make it explicit that the vice president can’t decide which electoral votes to count and that states can’t discard the popular vote if the outcome isn’t to their liking. Even though changes along these lines might get bi-partisan support, Schumer is pushing to eliminate the filibuster to pass the progressive wish list of electoral non-sequiturs (although a few provisions, like prohibiting the intimidation of election officials, have been added to the Democratic package to address the 2020 post-election fight).

To wrap this push in the bloody shirt of Jan. 6 is opportunistic and irresponsible and can only serve to convince even more Republicans that the outrage over that day is in the service of a nakedly partisan agenda.

Schumer has an uphill climb to convince relatively moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to go along with kneecapping the filibuster. If the New York senator were to succeed, he would have blown a hole in the traditional practices of the Senate and set the precedent for Republicans — should they achieve unified control of Washington in 2024 — to impose all their own favored electoral policies on the states.

This yin and yang wouldn’t do anything to restore faith in democracy, rather the opposite. But Chuck Schumer is on a mission to achieve, and to use, the power to rewrite the country’s electoral rules — justifications and consequences be damned.

© 2022 by King Features Syndicate

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