If voting is the foundation of democracy and a sacred right of the citizens of any nation, the explosion of coverage about recent changes to voting laws in Georgia and pending voting rights legislation at the federal level should be getting intense scrutiny.
And for Black folks who have invested so much into elections and voting, in particular in national presidential elections, these voting rights assaults in Georgia and other states matter. But perhaps not in the way that you think.
If the Republican Party is an enemy of Black people with a history of voter suppression and erecting obstacles to Black voter participation, their actions in Georgia and elsewhere aren’t shocking or surprising. You always know where your enemy stands.
The question on this issue is where are Black America’s friends? And if we truly have “friends,” where are they in this sacred struggle to protect a sacred right? For Democrats, it’s also a right exercised in historic numbers last year that had Black folk “saving” America’s democracy—putting a Democrat in the White House and giving Dems control of the House and Senate by a single vote. A vote wielded by a Black vice president heralded, applauded and supported by millions of Black people at the ballot box in 2020.
All that being true, words of condemnation about the action of the state legislature and the governor of Georgia mean nothing. What are White folk, White Dems willing to do to preserve, protect and defend Black voting rights—and what are Black folks going to demand, not from their enemies, but from their friends?
“It’s an atrocity,” President Biden declared March 26 in a statement. “They passed a law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote. You don’t need anything else to know this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.”
Mr. Biden called for congressional approval of two bills sponsored by Democrats to protect and expand voting rights. He knows those bills are going nowhere. They are going nowhere largely because a lone White senator from West Virginia, and a couple other Democrats, wield outsized power by refusing to march lock step with their party—even in what his president calls an assault on democracy and condemned as Jim Crow laws in the 21st Century.
Yet Joe Manchin isn’t condemned, berated, ostracized nor blasted for refusing to stand up for a basic right for Black folk. It seems like our “friends” in the party are more concerned with his feelings and political foibles than a fundamental right of millions of Black voters, the majority of whom are loyal Democrats.
Where is the president’s voice against this White man in his own party? Where is the Black Caucus and its allies in bashing this White man who seems able to cow a president? We know this country once declared the Black man had no rights a White man was bound to respect; it appears Blacks have no rights that White allies are bound to defend—even if it would benefit these same allies.
Why won’t Mr. Biden go full speed ahead on fighting to end the slavery-era filibuster provision in the Senate that allows a single senator to hijack the legislative process? Instead of saying, it’s time to move forward and executing his agenda, the president has tried to coddle Mr. Manchin, saying like the old days senators should have to stand and talk for hours, the original filibuster, and not just hold things up. But just 51 Democratic votes which would include Mr. Manchin and Vice President Harris could end the filibuster and stop forcing a 60 vote “yea” to pass most legislation. That will never happen because do-nothing Republicans aren’t voting for Democratic bills in the Senate.
Is this not madness, Black America?
Why aren’t you incensed at President Biden, Black America? Shouldn’t he stand up for you like you stood up for him? Didn’t he promise he had your back the night he delivered his acceptance speech? Where is the energy, Black America that you had when you demanded Blacks vote pro-Biden or be declared enemies of their own people and by default pro-Trump? Where is the energy, Black America, that had you attacking one another, ending friendships, ending relationships and ending business deals with those who weren’t marching to the voting booth to the Joe Biden beat?
So you saved a country, your enemy wants to cut your throat politically but your friends are kinda quiet and even divided? Yet you are still invested in this country, the system and this party? Why doesn’t Sen. Cory Booker, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, vow to blow up any and all legislation by Democrats unless these voting bills pass the majority-Democrat Senate? Is he afraid? Or is a Black man in New Jersey politically impotent when compared to an aging White politician from one of America’s poorest states?
“In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020),” said the Brennan Center for Justice last month.
As the Associated Press explained about the Georgia law, “The 98-page measure that was signed into law (March 25) by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp makes numerous changes to how elections will be administered, including a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail. … Much of the work administering elections in Georgia is handled by the state’s 159 counties. The law gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.”
“The new law makes it a misdemeanor to hand out ‘any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink’ to anyone standing in line to vote.”
“It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.”
“Similar to the House bill that passed on a party-line vote, the Senate legislation would create automatic voter registration nationwide, allow former felons to vote, and limit the ways states can remove registered voters from their rolls. It would expand voting by mail, promote early voting and give states money to track absentee ballots,” said the Associated Press.
How is that a threat to democracy? And, how can your political “friends” not rush to protect you and themselves?