Over the weekend, many in Nassau County honored those who in President Lincoln’s words gave their “last full measure of devotion” to their country.
Speakers rightly spoke of their “courage,” “sacrifice,” “duty to country” and “service to nation.”
This is what made the vote by U.S. Senate Republicans on Friday, the day before the Memorial Day weekend, on legislation that would have launched a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission on the 1/6 attack on the U.S. Capitol all the more shocking.
The Jan. 6 insurrection, incited by then-President Donald Trump, was made in an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in the worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The lives of the vice president, members of Congress and their staffs were threatened. More than 140 police officers were injured. Five people died.
But the bill was blocked in a 54-35 vote in its favor, failing to reach the 60 votes required under Senate filibuster rules and illustrating that legislative’s body’s dysfunction.
Where else could a vote 54-35 in favor lose? Especially when the 54 senators who voted for the Jan. 6 commission represented 87 million more Americans than the 35 GOP senators who blocked it.
Six Republicans did vote for the commission as well as 48 Democrats. Two Democrats and nine Republicans – inexplicably, incredibly – were not present to vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who lobbied against the commission, said publicly it was unnecessary due to other investigations taking place. This is untrue.
Several questions would still remain about the attack, including to what degree it was coordinated as well as details about what Trump was doing while it was taking place. And the American people deserve a full public accounting of what happened that day to help prevent it from happening again.
Privately, according to published reports, McConnell offered the real reason for his opposition – a lengthy commission wouldn’t be good politics heading into the 2022 midterms. McConnell contended a 1/6 commission could uncover damaging revelations related to Trump that would hurt Republicans.
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When the truth is your enemy, you know a political party is in trouble. McConnell also could have been speaking about the possible role played by some Republican members of Congress when discussing potentially damaging revelations.
Even worse for those who support democracy in this country, 1/6 was not a lone act. It is part of an ongoing campaign by Trump and his followers to undermine democratic elections and the public’s confidence in their integrity.
Trump incited the riot on 1/6 with what has become known as the Big Lie – the false claim that the presidential election was stolen.
A total of 147 Republicans, eight senators and 139 representatives, then voted to overturn the election results based on spurious allegations of widespread voter fraud. After the mob attacked the Capitol.
Those refusing to certify Biden’s victory included three New York representatives – Nicole Malliotakis, Lee Zeldin and Elise M. Stefanik. Stefanik would later be voted into the No. 3 position in the Republican caucus.
The Big Lie spread by Trump and his congressional supporters has now become the excuse for efforts to undermine the independence of election officials and suppress Black and Brown voters across the country – a measure of how far the Party of Lincoln has drifted from its roots.
The latest attempt at voter suppression following an election in which virtually no fraud was detected anywhere was in Texas, where Democrats beat back an attempt to impose the most restrictive election laws in the country – on Memorial Day weekend.
The legislation included criminal penalties for driving more than two unrelated people to the polls and the elimination of Sunday morning voting.
These penalties would have fallen most heavily on poor, Black voters.
But this is not merely a Black issue. Suppressing Blacks voting for Democrats means possibly negating the votes of everyone voting for Democrats – and undermining our democracy.
It is also a problem for people in every other state, including New York. Voter suppression efforts could change the outcome of the presidency and the leadership of the House and Senate.
These efforts have the support of most Republicans but not all.
There is a split between traditional Republicans, such as Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Liz Cheney and those supporting Trump in what can only be called the anti-democratic wing of the party. Sadly, polls show that Republicans overwhelmingly support the Trump wing of the party.
For Nassau voters, this split raises questions for the candidates for local office. Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau Republican Party’s pick to challenge Democrat Laura Curran for county executive, was Trump’s liaison with the county GOP during the presidential election.
Blakeman, who had appeared to fit the traditional Republican mold before Trump’s run, mirrored Trump both in tone and substance in a Blank Slate Media town hall before the presidential election. So voters might want to know whether Blakeman would have voted for the Jan. 6 commission if he was in Congress, whether he thinks President Joe Biden won in a free and fair election and whether he will respect the outcome of the county executive election in November.
The same question should be asked of every Republican running for county and town offices and Republican county officials.
We already know that county Republicans have refused to allow an independent commission to redistrict the county after receiving the results of the 2020 census.
The last time this happened the GOP gerrymandered Nassau County to give themselves a 12-7 advantage among registered voters – despite Democrats holding a wide lead in registered voters in the county. This undermines the will of the majority.
Legislation that passed the House and is now before the U.S. Senate would provide the needed protections to voting at the state level if not places like Nassau County.
But to gain approval Senate Democrats would need to suspend if not do away with the filibuster, a Jim Crow-era anachronism that requires 60 votes for legislation to pass. And that will require a strong push from Biden – something he has yet to provide.
Republican officials and others have sought to equate the Jan. 6 insurrection with the riots that sprang from the Black Lives Matter marches in some cities after a video was released of what we later learned was the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.
The violence was unacceptable. But it is in no way the equivalent of what took place on Jan. 6 at the Capitol – when an armed mob overran the legislative seat of government, threatened the lives of elected officials and attempted to overturn a presidential election.
The attack on 1/6 was an assault on the freedom that soldiers have given their lives across the nation’s history to protect.
Defending that freedom is the best way we can honor our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. Or any other day.