While Governor Kristi Noem bored the Legislature with her incredibly ridiculous misinterpretation of freedom and fake culture-war posturing, President Joe Biden delivered a meaningful speech in Atlanta on the real need to protect real Americans’ voting rights from the real tyranny of white apartheidists like Noem.
Speaking at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, in the city he called “the cradle of civil rights,” President Biden spoke of how brave students and other activists fighting for social justice in the 1950s and 1960s “forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act to keep the promise of America alive, the promise that holds that we are all created equal but more importantly deserve to be treated equally.” President Biden contrasted the noble efforts of those social justice warriors to extend the American dream to more Americans with the violent insurrectionists of January 6, 2021, who sought to overturn the will of the majority of voters and stop the peaceful transfer of power to the President whom the voters had duly elected. “They want chaos to reign; we want the people to rule.”
Thus President Biden framed his call for Congress to protect voting rights from the insurrection’s sympathizers who, having failed to win or steal the last election, now strive to deny the vote to the people they can’t persuade.
The battle for the soul of America is not over. We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6 marks not the end of democracy but the beginning, a renaissance of our democracy.
…The right to vote is democracy’s threshold liberty. Without it, Nothing is possible, but with it, anything is possible.
…Now the defeated former President and his supporters use the Big Lie about the 2020 election to fuel torrent and torment and anti-voting laws, new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.
Here in Georgia, for years you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls. You’ve built a broad coalition of voters—black, white, latino, Asian American, urban, suburban, rural, working class, and middle-class—and it’s worked. You’ve changed the state by bringing more people legally to the polls. That’s how you won the historic elections of Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator John Ossoff. You did it. You did it the right way, the democratic way.
And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia?
Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way. To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.
So they’re putting up obstacles. For example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote, so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail, the same way, I might add, in the 2020 election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House in Florida, dropping your ballots off to secure dropboxes. It’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote. So they’re limited the number of dropboxes and the hours you can use them.
Taking away the options has a predictable effect: longer lines at the polls, lines that can last for hours. You’ve seen them with your own eyes. People get tired. They get hungry. The Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty. The new Georgia law actually makes it illegal… to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters, food or water while they wait in line to vote.
What in the hell—heck—are we talking about? I mean, think about it. That’s not America. That’s what it looks like when they suppress the vote [President Joe Biden, speech on voting rights, Atlanta, Georgia, transcribed from YouTube, 2022.01.11].
President Biden said 19 states passed 34 laws in 2021 attacking voting rights. He said Republican legislatures are cooking up more laws this year “to turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion, something states can respect or ignore.”
Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.
It’s no longer about who gets to vote.
It’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.
…The goal of the former President’s allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them, simple as that. The facts won’t matter. Your vote won’t matter. They’ll just decide what they want and then do it.
That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies.
We must be vigilant, and the world is watching. I know the majority of the world leaders, the good and the bad ones, adversaries and allies alike—they’re watching American democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment [Biden, 2022.01.11].
To meet that moment, President Biden called on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. He reminded us that throughout his career in the Senate, Republicans regularly supported reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act. He noted that an extension of the Voting Rights Act passed in 2006 with a unanimous vote of the Senate, including votes from 16 Republicans serving in the Senate today. He recalled that even longtime Southern segregationist Strom Thurmond voted in 1980 to extend the Voting Rights Act.
But Republicans today can’t and won’t. Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated President to protect America’s right to vote. Not one. Not one [Biden, 2022.01.11].
President Biden declared this failure of character has rendered the United States Senate—”designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body”—”a shell of its former self.” President Biden said the filibuster used to be used to forge compromise, but today’s Republicans jhave lost sight of that purpose. Now, said the President, “the threat to democracy is so grave” that we must get rid of the filibuster and allow a simple majority vote in the Senate on new voting rights legislation.
Filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart. Filibusters are weaponized and abused. Although state legislative assaults on voting rights is simple—all you need in your house and senate is a pure majority, in the United States Senate it takes a supermajority, 60 votes, even to get a vote, instead of 50 to protect the right to vote.
State legislators can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities. If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority.
Today, I’m making it clear: to protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed, to prevent a minority of Senators from blocking action on voting rights.
…I make this announcement with careful deliberation, recognizing the fundamental right to vote is a right from which all other rights flow.
And I make it with an appeal to my Republican colleagues, to those Republicans who believe in the rule of law: restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights.
…Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush—they all supported the Voting Rights Act. Don’t let the Republican Party morph into something else [Biden, 2022.01.11].
Speaking of the death of revered Congressman John Lewis last summer, President Biden said “We must translate eulogy into action.” Speaking of the upcoming celebration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he invoked the words of King’s family, saying, “On this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.”
The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation’s history…. The issue is, will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice.
I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend the right to vote, our democracy, against all enemies foreign and, yes, domestic.
The question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? Every Senator—Democrat, Republican, and independent—will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.
Will you stand against voter suppression, yes or no? That’s the question they’ll answer.
Will you stand against election subversion, yes or no?
Will you stand for democracy, yes or no?
There’s one thing every Senator and every American should remember: history has never been kind to those who’ve sided with voter suppression over voters rights and would be less kind for those who side with election subversion. So I ask every elected official in America: how do you want to be remembered?
At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? [Biden, 2022.01.11]
President Biden is on the right side of history. He is calling on the Senate and all of us to join him on that side, on the side of democracy and its foundational right to vote. He didn’t have to call so hard for such a seemingly self-evident right forty or even twenty years. But times have changed, and Republicans have turned on their own history, their own consciences, to support one tyrant’s quest to erase votes, steal elections, and subvert the rule of law. Those Republicans now pose the real threat to the basic American ideal of one person, one vote. President Biden and the rest of us must fight that much harder to preserve that fundamental affirmation of equal human dignity and all the rights that flow from it.