Beto O’Rourke: Democrats Will Lose Majorities If They Don’t Pass Voting Rights Bill

“It is connected to any other right that matters to you.”

Beto O' Rourke speaks at the Texas State Capital to demand federal action on voting rights, July 31, 2021, Austin, TX. Mario Cantu/Cal Sport Media via AP

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Beto O’Rourke told Mother Jones on Wednesday he was strongly considering running for governor of Texas, in large part to protect the right to vote.

“When I thought about how I could be most effective for this state, and, I hope, this country this year, it was on the issue of voting rights,” he said during a live virtual conversation. “It is connected to any other right that matters to you.” 

But he stressed that GOP voter suppression and extreme gerrymandering could only truly be combated if Congress passed federal legislation protecting voting rights.

“We need major federal voting rights legislation that can unrig the system and allow for free and fair elections in Texas and these other states that are under siege by these anti- ‘small d’ democratic forces,” he said.

He praised the recently introduced Freedom to Vote Act, a compromise bill introduced by Senator Democrats including Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would expand access to the ballot, ban partisan gerrymandering, and crack down on dark money. But he warned that Democrats would lose their Congressional majorities if they failed to reform the filibuster to overcome GOP opposition and pass it.

“Competitive elections allow more voters, hence more likely Democratic voters, to participate in the decisions at the end of the day,” O’Rourke said. “And if we, as Democrats or pro-democracy Americans, are not willing to use every tool available to us, while Republicans are using every tool available to them to constrict and reduce and perhaps demolish the right to vote altogether, then we become complicit in the outcome. And I’m not in for that one.”

He noted that communities of color in states like Texas and Georgia were the strongest supporters of Joe Biden and the most likely to be targeted by voter suppression efforts. “If, when the fight was engaged, Democrats walked off or stood on procedure instead of winning the damn thing…we’ll lose. And frankly, it would be hard to argue that we wouldn’t deserve to lose if we fail to fight now and fail to win this fight now.”

He predicted that if Republicans take back control of one or both houses of Congress, they would bring impeachment proceedings against Biden and try to overturn the 2024 election results.

“If we stand on the principle of the filibuster, and deny ourselves the ability to effectively fight back and save this democracy, I really do fear we lose it forever,” he said.

Watch my full interview with O’Rourke below:

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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