Will Congress release the coiled & as-yet-unused power buried deep within the Constitution?
The Founders of this nation, and the Framers who wrote our Constitution, created (as Ben Franklin famously said) a constitutional republic: a government “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed” through citizens’ (then white men’s) right to vote.
They referred to this as “republicanism” because it was based on the Greek and Roman republics (then thousands of years in the past but still remembered and idealized), and when put into law they called it “a Republican Form of Government.”
Today that form of government in crisis in America, as that core right to vote that defines republicanism is under attack by Republican legislators in red and swing states across our nation.
“In emergency, break glass” is the almost-never-used option available should a building catch fire or otherwise be in crisis. There’s a similar alarm and safety valve built into the US Constitution that, like that glass in so many buildings, has never before been used to protect our republic.
It’s called the Guarantee Clause, and it’s the basis of the Right To Vote Act that has passed the House and is stalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
The Guarantee Clause, however, has never been used as a part of our everyday politics or law: most people, in fact, have never heard of it.
It’s never been used or adopted as law by the courts so it’s essentially “potential power,” a powerful but tightly coiled force quietly waiting for a real emergency, buried deep in our Constitution for 232 years.
But it comes alive when Congress activates it for the first time, which could be right now because the Freedom to Vote Act does just that, explicitly firing it up by name.
Joe Manchin is one of its co-sponsors, although it’s mostly an effort by Senators Klobuchar (its main sponsor), Kaine, King, Merkley, Padilla, Tester, and Warnock. On the Republican side, it appears to have support from Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.
And when you understand the background of the Guarantee Clause, the urgency and the consistency of The Right To Vote Act with the Framer’s vision about the possibility of this…