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Americans Losing Faith In Government, Democrats Seek Voting Rights

McConnell’s condemnation means the legislation has almost no chance of coming up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, which is firmly under the control of Republicans. The monthlong government shutdown delayed Democrats’ timeline for moving the bill through the House.

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Americans Losing faith in government. VOA

Americans’ faith in their government is near historic lows.

Just before the beginning of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, only 18 percent of Americans said they trusted Washington lawmakers to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to a Pew Research Center poll. Since then, public cynicism has grown even deeper, according to experts.

The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is making a sweeping attempt to address those concerns, with H.R. 1 “The People’s Act,” a bill designed to tackle what many see as lingering and corrosive problems in American democracy.

From changing the way candidates fund their campaigns and addressing foreign election interference to automatically registering voters and reversing a U.S. Supreme Court decision on voter suppression, this ambitious legislation would significantly alter many areas of the democratic process.

FILE - Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the internet giant's privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2018.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the internet giant’s privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2018. (VOA)

“The general arc of our nation’s politics over the last generation has made it easy to be cynical,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Tuesday. “Easy to say that America has, in that time, increasingly tended toward an oligarchy, in which more and more of the political power is concentrated in fewer and fewer wealthy and powerful hands.”

The 2018 midterm election campaign fueled distrust in the electoral process amid reports of voter suppression in Georgia, Florida and elsewhere, and irregularities in absentee balloting in North Carolina.

McConnell sees ‘power grab’

But congressional Republicans say these reforms are an attempt by Democrats to centralize elections under federal oversight and are better left to state and local voting officials.

“They’re trying to clothe this power grab with clichés about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a Washington Post editorial published last week. “It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks to reporters asking about the threat of another government shutdown following a strategy meeting in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks to reporters asking about the threat of another government shutdown following a strategy meeting in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019.VOA

McConnell’s condemnation means the legislation has almost no chance of coming up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, which is firmly under the control of Republicans. The monthlong government shutdown delayed Democrats’ timeline for moving the bill through the House.

Four weeks into the new 116th Congress, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing this week on some of the key issues in the bill.

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Voter registration

Voters would be automatically registered to vote if the new bill is enacted. Currently, voter registration in the United States is voluntary. The bill would also make Election Day a federal holiday, helping free up some voters from work responsibilities so they can head to the polls. Critics of the provision say that would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

FILE - Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes.
Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes. (VOA)

Voting rights

The bill would institute a nationwide restoration of voting rights for an estimated 6.1 million people with felony convictions. The state of Florida recently restored those rights for 1.4 million of its residents. This bill would end the practice of that decision being made on varied criteria at the state level. These post-Civil War era practices “have a significant racial impact,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, testified. (VOA)

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Sanders Kicks Fight Against Trump into High Gear as Democrats Swarm San Francisco

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump, kicking the 2020 presidential campaign into high gear with jabs against the Republican president and a veiled swipe at Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Sanders called Trump “a racist, a sexist, a homophobe and a religious bigot” in a speech capping off a state Democratic convention that drew fourteen of the 24 candidates to make their case before 5,000 delegates, guests and press in the most populous – and most heavily Democratic – U.S. state.

“Together we are going to defeat a president who has the most corrupt administration in history,” Sanders said, “and a president who knows nothing about real American values.”

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party as it seeks to recover from Trump’s populist-fueled victory in 2016.

Sanders, Fight, Trump, Democrats
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, cheer during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

The party’s left-leaning delegates greeted Sanders and liberal U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren like rock stars.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper drew boos when he said socialist policies would not propel the party to victory, and other moderates were booed for rejecting the idea of a universal public health care system, or Medicare for All.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who leads Sanders in polls for the Democratic nomination in California and nationwide, did not attend the convention, drawing barely veiled criticism from Sanders.

Sanders noted that the fourteen candidates who addressed the convention, as well as some who had “chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room,” offer a variety of ways to approach a campaign against Trump. But Sanders rejected the centrist approach favored by Biden and some other candidates.

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On issues like health care, pharmaceutical prices and climate change wracking the country, “there is no middle ground,” Sanders said.

Addressing concerns among some Democrats that a moderate would be more electable than a fiery progressive, Sanders said such an approach would not generate the enthusiasm needed to defeat Trump.

“We will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote and a reason to believe that politics is relevant to their lives,” Sanders said.

California, which will send nearly 500 delegates to the party’s nominating convention next year, took on new heft for the 2020 campaign after moving its nominating election to March from June. Democrats hold all statewide elective offices in the state, and dominate both houses of the legislature.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump. Pixabay

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a native daughter who has been eclipsed in early polling in California by Biden and Sanders, made clear she was not taking her home state for granted.

On Saturday, supporters with signs bearing her name and shouting “Kamala! Kamala!” formed a gauntlet that Sanders was forced to walk through on his way into a labor union breakfast.

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“I am here to earn everyone’s support, and I’m going to fight to earn it,” Harris said at a breakfast held by the party’s women’s caucus. (VOA)