Democrats Must Fight to Protect Our Democracy the Way Republicans Fight to Destroy It | Opinion

Senate Republicans handed a far-right ideologue a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the nation last week, just days before the most contentious election of our lifetime and with tens of millions of Americans already having voted. In response, Democrats in the chamber did what the Senate does best: nothing.

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed forward with Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation, Senate Democrats protested but stated that they couldn't block the process. This was a pathetic excuse to back away from a fight that could decide the fate of American democracy.

Barrett not only puts health care and abortion access in extreme danger. She also threatens to cement Republicans' minority rule.

Remember: The majority of American voters voted against President Donald Trump in 2016. The Democratic "minority" in the Senate represents almost 15 million more people than the Republican "majority." And Trump has launched a full-scale attack on the integrity of the election, publicly refusing to accept the results and appointing a justice who he hopes will help him win.

With Trump and McConnell's blatant power grab, the answer from Senate Democrats should not have been a shrug. Democrats have an obligation to the majority they represent and the country as a whole to fight back. It's long past time for the knives to come out.

With no less than the fate of our democracy hanging in the balance, now is not the time to get complacent. Moving forward, Democrats will need to pull no punches in protecting the political rights of Americans and aggressively combat GOP corruption at every level.

First and foremost, Democrats in Congress must maximize any power they gain during the election to restore electoral integrity. They can do this by advocating for and passing the For the People Act (HR1). Passed in the House of Representatives in 2019, the bill would empower all Americans by creating a national voter registration program, making Election Day a federal holiday and mandating that presidential and vice presidential candidates disclose their tax returns, among several other goals.

Ensuring all U.S. citizens have equal access to polls must remain a priority for Democrats in Congress after the dust has settled on this election. In addition to combating partisan gerrymandering and GOP voter suppression tactics that have been on full display this cycle, granting statehood to any U.S. territory requesting it will help make the U.S. as a more diverse, equal and representative democracy. With so much electoral power in the hands of the judiciary, reforming the Supreme Court and expanding federal courts in favor of voting rights are options Democrats will also need to explore moving ahead.

Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett
President Donald Trump stands with newly sworn in U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House October 26 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

It's a shame that we have to beg our leaders to do even the bare minimum. It is their moral and constitutional obligation to protect our democracy from anyone who would abuse it—whether the threat comes from abroad or sits next to them in the Senate chamber. It's well known that senators view their institution as a more genteel form of politicking, a chamber that's deeply reliant on archaic rules and a culture of civility. That collegial spirit is a luxury that millions of people who have much more on the line just can't afford.

Wealthy people interested in preserving our most basic rights should recognize the urgency of this moment, too. However wrong it is, politicians may not listen to their constituents, but I can assure you that they listen to money.

As a wealthy donor myself, I can call up senators who I've contributed to and know that I'll get my voice heard. Dark money has been flowing into the conservative effort to pack the courts full of right-wing puppets for years, but there's been no similar effort from the left. Democratic donors need to rise to the occasion and use their outsized influence for good in this critical moment.

If ever there was a time to take an ax to all those old Senate rules and norms, it's now. I have, for all of my 69 years, prided myself in being a Southern gentleman. To deal with my fellow man in a civil, respectful manner, but at some point, you have to put your foot down. Democrats have no option but to stand up to McConnell and Trump's plot to subject this country to minority rule by trampling on our most sacred democratic values, institutions and processes. It's time for Senate Democrats to grow a backbone and stop treating Senate Republicans with civility they'll never receive in return.

Stephen Prince founded Card Marketing Services in 1993 and is vice-chair of the Patriotic Millionaires.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.