After the failure of voting rights legislation

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SE Williams

Last week, black Americans received another of those undeserved slaps from the political party we keep running for – a loyalty built over time starting with the famous New Deal promises of the 1920s. of famous President Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a Democrat.

Then, like now, it didn’t take long to realize that when it came to addressing the needs of Black people fairly, the New Deal was not a Bad Deal for Black people, in truth, it was No Deal at all when he achieved equal access to the benefits offered under his programs.

Forty years in its wake (there is something about the number 40, relative to America and black people, that is oddly disturbing). So, 40 years after the New Deal, there was the welcome passage of the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act (VRA) –thank you democrats– which created an opening for the progress of black people. But, just as 40 acres and a mule promised newly freed slaves then disowned by the federal government, the same happened more than 40 years later for the right to vote when the United States Supreme Court struck down the primary provision of the Elections Act (Section 5) in 2013, and put the onus on Congress to fix it.

If it hadn’t had such an impact on black lives and futures, the idea of ​​giving that responsibility to a Republican-led Congress in 2013 – when party members remained furious and vindictive after the election of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama.

From the outset, Republican leaders in Congress boldly announced their intention to make him a one-term president and block every bill he proposed. After initially failing in that mission (Obama won re-election and he passed the historic Affordable Care Act), for the Supreme Court to then expect those same Republican Party leaders (who at that time had seized control of both houses of Congress) work to reinvigorate the VRA, was absurd.

For this and other reasons, whether disappointed, dissatisfied, disillusioned, discouraged or more, black voter turnout declined in 2016. Debate continues over what role this played in Donald Trump’s final election is unclear, what is clear, however, is when black people don’t vote, it matters.

When black people don’t vote, it matters (graphic source: pewresearch.org).

Beginning in 2017, the nation witnessed the rise, fall, and ongoing threat of a racist leader striving to build an Aryan nation.

This looming threat coupled with an out-of-control pandemic killing people of color in unprecedented numbers, and the continued, indiscriminate killing of black people by rogue cops and vigilantes has brought black voters back to the polls in 2020 where they were forced between a rock (Donald Trump) and a tough spot (Joe Biden) who by comparison was served as the great white hope despite his crony relationship with a segregationist or the lack of protection and respect he showed our black sister Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings or her avid support (along with many blacks in Congress) for passage of the 1984 Crime Bill. For blacks, it was another one of those election cycles where we knew we were voting for the future of our children and as flawed as Biden – we had no other choice because four more years of Trump would most certainly have been disastrous for black people and other underserved communities. Following Trump’s actions since his 2020 defeat, it is evident that electing Biden, while not the ideal choice, was the right choice between the two candidates.

I know it’s only been a year and I would never overlook Biden’s accomplishments to date, but in my view the President claims he can sway recalcitrant Republicans and Democrats when he has failed so miserably. to that while he was Obama’s wing, struck me as an exaggerated over-promise. He failed to keep his promises in this regard for Obama and there was no reason to believe that he would do better when he became president despite his many promises.

What American Democracy Allows

To date, Biden’s agenda hasn’t gone to plan — no criminal justice reform — no immigration reform — and most importantly, no voting rights legislation, the foundation upon which the democracy. But he did make a deal for infrastructure — certainly something warranted, necessary, and of course a priority for recalcitrant Republicans and Democrats, but not high on the list for black and brown voters. Biden even broke a promise made to the progressive caucus to pass Build Back Better filled with relief for issues important to those constituencies to get them moving on infrastructure.

Biden spent countless hours meeting with moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. How many hours has he spent with progressive lawmakers? How many hours did he meet with members of the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus?

“Because I learned a long time ago that winning doesn’t always mean you get the prize. Sometimes you get progress, and that matters.

Stacey Abrams

What’s so utterly rude and disturbing about Biden’s submission to Manchin in particular (Sinema has its own issues) is that Manchin is a multi-millionaire from a state where the total population is 1.79 million vs. 39.5 million in California for example. The population of California alone is equivalent to more than 23 West Virginians. There is something wrong with a democratic system where a man elected by 0.5% of the country’s population can wield such power given that Manchin was elected in 2018 with a fraction of that 0.5% . That year, in a three-person race, Manchin won re-election by less than 50% of the state’s voters. His state has a poverty rate hovering around 16%, a median income of $26,354, but only about 5% of West Virginia’s population are people of color.

Thus, American democracy allows a marginally elected senator to strut around as if he were the “Stardust Ballroom King”, thereby putting our children’s future in jeopardy. The truth is appalling, but again, that’s the nature of American democracy.

While tracing my family roots, I met a woman named Cora. I don’t know much about her or where she came from other than in the 1790s she was gifted by her owner to his son who moved her from North Carolina to Tennessee. She, her children and her children’s children worked on this plantation until freedom came. Sometimes it is humbling for me to realize that I am only the third generation on this branch of my family tree to be born free.

Stay engaged in the fight

At times like this, when black people once again risk losing the only tool that gives us the opportunity to build a better life for ourselves and our offspring. Like many others, I’m sure, I sometimes feel weary in the continuing quest for full citizenship for black people that seems endless – after all, Republican leader Mitch McConnell just reminded us the other day that they still don’t see black people as citizens – he called it an unintentional mistake, I call it a Freudian slip.

I know that even though we are discouraged, we must remain committed to this struggle in any way possible. I imagine what my great-great-great-grandmother Cora might advise me and others about this dilemma. I imagine she would say something like… “Never give up… If you have to wait in line for hours to vote, then get up. If you need to show ID to vote, find a way to get ID, show it and vote. If you are purged from the electoral lists, re-register and then vote. If they refuse to pass the suffrage legislation, then vote to resign or vote and elect more representatives to silence their resistance. No matter what obstacles they will put in your way, fight your way and overcome it.

In the final analysis, voting is the only way forward. This is the only way to put people in place to establish the laws to protect our access to the ballot.

Cora would probably remind me that my today is much better than yesterday and that with perseverance and determination to secure and maintain the franchise, tomorrow will be even better for our great-great-great-grandchildren.

We owe it to past generations to persevere in this struggle. We have an obligation to reimburse it.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I keep it real.

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