For months, Biden and other Democrats have warned about efforts to restrict voting. Nonetheless, the Republicans have succeeded.
Since January, Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Arkansas and Montana have enacted new laws that impose new barriers to voting. This week’s successful Republican filibuster, which halted sweeping voting rights legislation, the For the People Act, only underscored how Democrats have been unable to stop the GOP’s efforts to reduce voting.
Democrats have promised that the fight for voting rights is far from over, but activists told The Guardian they did not feel that Biden and the Democrats were meeting the moment and treating the fight for voting rights with the urgency that deserved.
“They’re checking the boxes,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, an advocacy group that focuses on mobilizing black voters. “They are not acting as if we are facing an existential crisis. That’s the problem. It’s top-down, ”added Albright, who is currently on a multi-state bus tour of the South to raise awareness of the need to protect voting.
After the bill stalled this week, the White House this week clearly escalated its efforts on the right to vote. Biden announced that he is embarking on a national voting rights tour to highlight the threat of new Republican laws. “I’m going to go around the country, explaining to the American people that this is not just about [showing identification] or being able to give someone in line water, it’s about who can judge if their vote is counted, ”he said at the White House. Thursday.
The Justice Department also announced Friday that it was filing a major voting rights case challenging a radical new voting law in Georgia, one of the largest voting cases the department has filed in recent years.
The lawsuit is a “step in the right direction,” Albright said, and would signal to other states that efforts to restrict voter access would not be tolerated.
But Democrats have a narrow window to pass laws. In August, state lawmakers will begin the once-a-decade process of redesigning the United States House and other state legislative districts, a procedure that Republicans are about to use to eliminate the Democratic majority in the United States House. The For the People Act would curb excessive manipulation of district lines for partisan gain, and if not in effect in August, Republicans would be free to freely control districts.
“The Republicans are doing everything they can to stop him. I need it to combine with the same kind of passion and commitment and to be vocal, ”said LaTosha Brown, the other co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “I haven’t seen the kind of response that would make me believe they are viewing this as a life and death moment for American democracy.”
The problem isn’t that Biden isn’t paying attention, activists say. The president issued a series of modest but potentially consequential executive orders.s extend voting rights in March. He has appointed some of the nation’s top voting rights attorneys to the upper echelons of the Justice Department, which recently announced it was doubling the number of attorneys focused on voting rights issues. And he has a White House adviser who focuses on voting rights.
Biden has also been relentless in his criticism of Republican efforts to make voting difficult, calling them “sick,” “anti-American,” and “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”
Still, some think Biden has so far not used the presidential pulpit to treat the issue as an emergency, said Ezra Levin, founder of Indivisible, a progressive grassroots group.
“He’s calling him,” Levin said. “We will see what public actions are like. We’ll see how overwhelming the campaign is … so far basically we haven’t seen any action, so any action is an improvement. “
While the White House has highlighted its public commitment to voting rights, some aides privately do not believe the GOP-backed rules are a boon to Republicans as some fear. according to The Atlantic. Advisers privately view infrastructure as a matter of best political victory for Biden, the Associated Press reported.
“You’ve recently encouraged me to see you make voting rights a priority, but at this point, words just aren’t enough. We’ve heard more about a watered-down bipartisan infrastructure bill than how the White House will help House Democrats save our ailing democracy, ”Mondaire Jones, a Democratic congressman from New York, said in a statement. “That is why we need to act with the urgency that this crisis demands.”
Brown, the activist Black Voters Matter, said Biden and the Democrats in Washington should emulate the Texas Democrats, who left the state legislature last month, denying Republican lawmakers the necessary quorum to pass the legislation. Although the legislature will reconvene in a special session next month and will likely finally pass the bill, Republicans have already pushed back some of the more damaging provisions. The move also offered a jolt of energy and a symbolic victory for Democrats after months.
Biden has shown some glimpses of raising the stakes. In April, he caught many off guard when the backup the idea of Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new voting law. MLB did just that days later, offering some of the strongest consequences to Republicans to date for a ballot bill.
Earlier this month, Biden also seemed to fire a shot to two moderate Democrats in the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two of the staunchest defenders of filibuster, saying there were “two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.” The White House quickly I was walking back the comments, saying that Biden wasn’t talking about the two senators.
But when Biden made a speech to Congress earlier this year, he only mentioned voting rights briefly, toward the end of his remarks. “If I’m your opponent and I tell you something that’s important to me, and then I only give it 30 seconds, how seriously are you going to take me?” Albright said.
If Biden and the Democrats were ultimately unable to pass the voting rights legislation, Brown said, it would be “devastating” for black voters, who not only played a big role in getting Biden into the White House, but also helped to Democrats to change Georgia’s two Senate in the United States. seats in January.
“The message it sends is that they are not willing to go out of their way to deliver the things we expected when we went out to vote for them and we risked our lives to do so,” Albright said. “The message they are sending is that they are okay with a little Jim Crow.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism