Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Photo: Youtube

WASHINGTON—Even as the enthusiasm over the defeat of Donald J. Trump and his forces in 2020 has faded in political circles, many desperate Democratic Party legislators have taken matters into their own hands, using new methods and old methods to prevent Republicans from fencing Black people off from their voting rights.

(L-R) President Joe Biden, Charles Evers, Maynard Jackson, Stacey Abrams

Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was arrested on Capitol Hill July 15, as dozens of Texas Democratic state legislators flocked to the Capitol to seek help in their battle against Republican proposed voting restrictions.

Beatty, who is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was one of nine people arrested as they marched on the Senate Office Building to call for the passage of the “For The People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”

“Today, I stood in solidarity with Black women across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote,” Rep. Beatty said in a statement. “We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence our voice.”


Elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, more than 50 Texas Democratic state legislators gathered as their absence from Austin, their state capital, broke the quorum of a special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott, to pass laws to restrict access to the ballot, especially for Black, Latinx, elderly and low-income voters.

“We are here in D.C., our nation’s capital, because we want to protect the civil right to vote for millions of Texans,” Rep. Rhetta Bowers told a Washington airport rally. “We were quite literally forced to leave the state of Texas.

“We also know that we are living on borrowed time in Texas, and we can’t stay here indefinitely to run out the clock to stop Republicans’ anti-voter attacks. That’s why we need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act. Texas Democrats will do everything in our power to fight back. But we need Congress to act now,” she said.

“We started off begging, now we’re asking. At some point we’re going to demand that we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill so that we protect voters all across this country, not just Texas but to make sure that we can protect everyone,” Rep. Jarvis Johnson told this writer in an interview for WPFW-FM’s “Monday Morning QB.”

“Because we see all across this country, you have Republicans that are putting forth legislation to thwart or to deprive many citizens the ability to vote. But they’re using the verbiage and the terminology of making it easier to vote as a manner by which people can cheat, and that’s just not true.

“Because we see all across this country, you have Republicans that are putting forth legislation to thwart or to deprive many citizens the ability to vote. But they’re using the verbiage and the terminology of making it easier to vote as a manner by which people can cheat, and that’s just not true.

“But they’re living on the big lie and they’re using the big lie to create harmful legislation all across this country,” Rep. Johnson said. Some of the new laws restrict early voting and mail-in balloting. Some of the new provisions are targeted at areas and groups that lean Democratic—like Black, Latino and younger voters.

Georgia has lowered the number of drop boxes allowed for the metropolitan Atlanta area to an estimated 23 from 94—while increasing drop boxes in some other parts of the state. Texas Republicans hope to ban drive-through voting and other measures that Harris County, a Democratic stronghold, adopted last year. Montana has ruled that student IDs are no longer a sufficient form of voter identification, but a gun registration is satisfactory.

President Biden linked his fortune with the effort to protect Black voting rights, in a Philadelphia speech July 14, calling GOP efforts “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.” Republicans insist that the efforts to derail their efforts are “doomed to fail.”

No matter if they are successful or if Republicans end up taking their political “lunch money,” from the national Democratic Party leadership, one reality persists: a significant number of Black voters are disillusioned with it, and have been disappointed with the Democrats in Washington for months.

The political action committee BlackPAC, found in a report in June, that while Black voters mainly support the Democrats and view the party’s values as their own, more than half feel that the party is not paying close enough attention to the Black community.

And while the standing of major political institutions has drooped, some individual Congress members get high marks for their work on the specific agendas of various groups. “I think right now, Chairman (David) Scott from Georgia and the Agriculture Committee has really stepped up in addressing the issue” of systemic, racist disenfranchisement of Black farmers, John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association told The Final Call.

“He held the first Black farmer hearing in the Agriculture Committee this year. And I would say Senator Cory Booker on the Senate side, who is now on the (Senate) Agriculture Committee, has been a very, very good ally and really taking some leadership role,” Mr. Boyd continued. “And Senator Raphael Warnock, the new Senator from Georgia, also gets a thumbs up from me for taking up debt relief. So, I would say those folks they’re really doing a good job.”

Other activists agree. “Well, back in May, we had a very diverse coalition of Congresspeople introduce a resolution in the House of Representatives inspired by the work and the agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign,” the Rev. Liz TheoHaris, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, told this writer in an interview.

“It was co-sponsored by (Rep.) Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Chair of the Progressive Caucus, and (Rep.) Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of the conveners of the Poverty and Opportunity Task Force of the Majority Leader, and was signed on by dozens of diverse Congress people from all across the country.”

Some observers, however, are less enthusiastic about the leadership and accomplishments of the Democratic Party on behalf of Black folks.

“I mean, that’s been said a million times,” Dr. Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, told The Final Call. “We’ve got to focus on what do we do about these (White) people that clearly hate us. I mean that’s the only word that I can use.

“What do we do defensively? What do we do to protect our community? What programs are out there now, like the Nation (of Islam) puts forward, that we should be working towards, Dr. Winbush continued.

Many Blacks in leadership want White people to do their fair share. “It’s just hard to change people,” said Mr. Boyd, “and I think that’s what people don’t get. We can put laws in place and all this stuff, but if White people can’t accept that we are going to be farmers too, we have a whole different bear here. And I’m saying that because it’s actually White farmers that are the ones suing us in court to block the debt relief to Black and other farmers of color. So, people are going to have to change their hearts,” Mr. Boyd continued.

“I don’t want to train White people anymore to be anti-racist because they’re going to always be racist,” said Dr. Winbush. He feels many, many people have been able to point out the problems in this society, but very few are leading the charge to actually do something about the problems that are now so widely known.

“I felt that the hard part is in front of us and we’re afraid to climb the mountain (to achieve collective success). And I think that’s all (that) White people do, is pass by” the racial challenges facing this country.

“And like Neely Fuller said, ‘The only people that can stop racism, White supremacy are White people.’ And they’re unwilling to do that. They really aren’t, they don’t want to climb up that mountain,” to even acknowledge, let alone confront American racism.

Instead of wasting time trying to achieve bi-partisan solutions to problems—White attitudes and behavior have changed little since the days of “massive resistance” to civil rights progress in the 1960s—the Black community must produce more special leaders, says Dr. Winbush.

“At the legislative elective level, I think that you have to have those type of Black politicians who are transformational,” he said.

“Maxine Waters is a transformational politician. When Black people first started electing people, we elected them to change the system. Always, our elected leaders no matter what level, local, state, federal (were) to change the system. John Conyers started out that way. Maynard Jackson did (the same) down in Atlanta. Medgar Evers’ brother Charles Evers started in Mississippi, but somehow these Black elected officials became a part of (the system), they weren’t into transformational politics.

“They became a part of the system and were (only) worried about being elected, raising money and they weren’t there to change the system, like Coleman Young did in Detroit,” said Dr. Winbush. “So was what’s his name out in California, (Tom) Bradley, they tried to change the system. I don’t see that many Black transformational leaders right now. I don’t think (President Barack) Obama was a transformational politician. I really don’t. There ain’t that many.

“Stacey Abrams, she’s transformational. This sister is not afraid of anything. She doesn’t care, she’s brave. And I think that those people are needed throughout the system,” he continued. “I think whatever field you’re in, I don’t care if it’s newspapers, I don’t care if you’re about journalism, education, politics, whatever field, you should be there to change a system that has oppressed us for what I call 580 years.”

—Askia Muhammad,

Senior Editor