Yesterday, President Joe Biden gave a speech in which he aggressively came out swinging in support of voting rights. Biden made clear that this issue is a key priority for him, and that he’s going to get it done one way or the other.
Unfortunately, even after Biden’s ground shifting speech, numerous liberal pundits began tripping over each other to be the first to declare that Biden was going to fail. Why? He didn’t use the magic word “filibuster.”
Here’s the thing. We all know that passing federal voting rights legislation is going to require exempting it from the filibuster, or weakening the filibuster, or something along those lines. Everyone in politics knows that. Joe Biden, one of the savvier politicians in the nation, obviously knows that. But that’s precisely the issue: Biden understands how these things work.
Biden is clearly attempting to rally the general public behind the idea that voting rights legislation is essential, so that once the general public is indeed demanding such a thing en masse, they’ll then begin asking what the solution is. That’s when Biden can then answer the call by laying out ways to work around the filibuster. It’ll be a lot easier for Biden to create a public pressure movement on holdout Democratic Senators once the public is on board.
If Biden had demanded today that the filibuster be altered, it wouldn’t have happened – and it would have weakened his leverage on the issue. If the President gets up and demands something, and is then immediately told “no” by members of his own party, that’s the ballgame. It’s over. If you throw down the gauntlet at your own party and it doesn’t work, it just makes you look weak, and so you don’t get another shot at it later.
Instead Biden is clearly ramping up toward that. He understands how you rally the general public behind an issue, and get them demanding solutions so you can give them solutions, instead of immediately trying to shove a solution down their throats before you’ve even gotten them to care about the issue. Biden also understands that the 2022 election is not tomorrow or next week. It’s next year. Passing HR1 is a long game. It has been from the start.
The problem is that none of this makes for a particularly ratings-friendly narrative. It’s infinitely easier for media pundits to keep implying that we’ll all be dead by this time tomorrow if we don’t pass federal voting rights legislation today, because that’s what scares politically active types into staying tuned in. But this isn’t about politically active types.
If you’re the type who even so much as pays attention to political news on a regular basis, Biden’s speech yesterday was not for your benefit. You’re already fully on board with fighting for voting rights legislation, and credit to you for that. But Biden knows that he needs a much larger army to fight this battle. Polls show that voting rights legislation is popular, but most of the public that supports it doesn’t see it as a priority. Biden knows that he has to make it a priority for a broad swath of the country before he can even get to the nitty gritty of getting the general public to demand changes to the filibuster.
So here’s a thought: consider the possibility that Joe Biden – who spent decades serving in the Senate and eight years overseeing the Senate as VP – just might know what he’s doing. Instead of rushing to declare his voting rights legislation effort dead on arrival because he didn’t say the magic words that make your own socks roll up and down, consider that this speech wasn’t even aimed at you. It was aimed at the kind of people you wish were fighting alongside you on voting rights.
Joe Biden, the most powerful man in the world, just declared in no uncertain terms that he’s going to do whatever it takes to make voting rights legislation happen. If you voted for him, if you support his presidency, if you believe in him, then now is the time to rally behind him on this.
Biden just created a huge opportunity for people like you to go out and echo what he said in his speech, and help get as many Americans as possible on board with fighting to make voting rights reform happen. Are you going to waste it by insisting it’s somehow going to fail no matter what? Or are you going to roll up your sleeves and help Biden win this battle? The future depends on whether you decide, in this moment, to be a defeatist loser or an activist winner.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report