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Speech That Matters: Biden Calls for Passage of Voting Rights Laws, Filibuster Be Darned

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.


  1. sx123 2022-01-11 20:16

    Can someone provide me a list of Noem accomplishments besides doing virtually nothing regarding covid (at least not from a public leadership perspective that I can see) and attempting to mandate petty disruptions to education? *crickets*?

    I want all of our elected officials to do well for the state of SD and always give them the benefit of the doubt, for a while, but I’m scratching my head here. Why are some drawn to her?

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-11 20:34

    President Biden today provided an outstanding lesson in history and civics. He reminded the students listening that they are the age that Dr. King and John Lewis were when they started fighting and bleeding for civil rights. Biden put together a coherent narrative, putting the civil rights movement and the ongoing Trumpist insurrection against voter rights in context and challenging the Senate to heed that history and do the right thing.

    Today’s speech in Atlanta will be remembered more than anything said in Pierre today.

  3. John 2022-01-11 21:44

    sx123, DFP Friend,
    as a congress critter struggling US Representative to “earn” (wink, wink) her degree, over 8 years, Noem’s sole accomplishment was the 2014, The Black Hills Cemetery Act:

    The legislative language was so poor, obtuse, and gave the Forest Service vast, ridiculous discretion, that to date only 1 of the 9 pioneer cemeteries land (Nemo) was transferred from federal title to a cemetery association control. Many of the “cemetery associations” had no governance, no budget, no survey, and no means to accept a land transfer. (The act was a bug looking for a windshield.)
    Imagine your home or commercial business closing taking 8+ years. This is the direct result of Noem’s incompetent legislative drafting and the Forest Service’s systemic illegitimacy to actually get anything done. By contrast, when then WY Representative Lummis passed the Ranch A land transfer – that title transfer was accomplished in 180 days. Representative Lummis’s legislation identified the four-corners and demanded the transfer completion within 180 days of passage. No bullshilt agency discretion to waffle. Noem is incompetent.

  4. ABC 2022-01-11 22:07

    Send letters and emails to Thune and Rounds to vote Yes on this great legislation.

    And if they vote No, replace them. Run yourself.

  5. cibvet 2022-01-11 23:46

    We mandate everything else in this country, why isn’t voting mandatory?

  6. mike from iowa 2022-01-12 09:02

    Noem Nothing note to self….Call Me Irresponsible (undeniably true)

    Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
    Throw in undependable too
    Do my foolish alibis bore you?
    Well, I’m not too clever, I just adore you
    Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
    Rainbows, I’m inclined to pursue
    Call me irresponsible, yes, I’m unreliable
    But it’s undeniably true
    I’m irresponsibly mad for you
    Call me irresponsible, yes, I’m unreliable
    But it’s undeniably true
    I’m irresponsibly mad for you


  7. Guy 2022-01-12 10:11

    Our President and Vice President both gave an educational speech that kept my attention and reminded me of what is important in strengthening and maintaining voting rights in our democratic republic. Thank you for posting this C-Span video, Cory.

  8. Porter Lansing 2022-01-12 15:25

    Texas tried to recruit red necks, in the 70’s. They got liberals, instead.

  9. jerry 2022-01-13 13:25

    If Rounds is so honorable now to take on trump’s big lie, why doesn’t he continue with his newly found balls and support voting rights for all Americans?

  10. John R Hasenauer 2022-01-26 17:10

    OPINION: A final word about false claims of Voter Fraud:
    If you recently attended the Douglas Frank presentation on the anomalies of the Nov. 2020 election, you wasted your ten bucks. The drugs he is pushing of “election fraud” have been readily disproven. Frank has been working with the “My Pillow Guy”, Mike Lindell, lacking legal or critical review of their election fraud conspiracy theories, all to no avail. Just use your search engine and enter their names and you will easily find the true evidence.

    After sixty court hearings, the rejection of the vast majority of county and state officials there is simply No evidence of voter fraud that would have overturned any election. The fact is the conservative Heritage Foundation website, could only come with 1,340 nationwide voter fraud cases and that’s since 1982. There were only 17 cases in 2020. No one anywhere in the USA has come up with evidence of 100 voter fraud cases. The last time Nebraska had any voter fraud was in 2017—just two misdemeanor cases; they paid a fine.

    So, what the heck is really going on here?

    Unfortunately, in recent years many Americans have apparently truly gotten much “dumber” over the last decade, or there is some kind of dark magic spell being cast over most of the republican political party and all who have claimed to be part of that “cult”!

    I have voted in every election since I was eligible even as I served in Vietnam, and I don’t recall EVER seeing the nastiness, controversies, lawsuits, electoral crimes, false accusations, insurrection, and the whole nine yards that have been brought about by Trump and his sycophants with regard to a “rigged” or “fixed” election. Or those false claims and unproven stolen or fraudulent ballots or other such made-up Trumpster bandwagon claims. They have taken the lead in an attempt at rewriting an alternative history and making up their own fantastical stories. Now, all we normal folks can do is “fight” back against the rages of fake idiocy, stupidity, all those lies, and lack of ethics or morals by speaking out. Voting and staying educated on the true evidentiary facts, is what an ethical and informed person can do because we are very close to losing what makes America a very special country!

    The re-writing of history is standard procedure for legitimizing the imposition of authoritarian rule i.e.: Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin in the 1920s and 30s. The Republicans are following to a tee the well-known playbook for imposing authoritarian rule in this and all other respects (restricting, voting rights, politicizing and polarizing the electoral process, demonizing the opposition, demeaning the free press, and even being mute about an insurrection, etc…). If Americans do not recognize steps like this for what they are and finally put down their iPhones; watching Faux-like distorted news and/or get up off the couch to do whatever it takes to defeat these authoritarians and hold them accountable for their subversive activities, we are virtually certain to lose our democracy. We will soon find ourselves living in a heartless, mindless, repressive theocratic autocracy ruled by an oligarchy. It’s all a real threat of tyranny against democracy! Are you willing to accept that?

    “Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

  11. mike from iowa 2022-01-26 17:41

    magats are rigging elections with numerous and frivolous voter id scams, gerrymandering, removing ballot boxes in poor areas where people can’t afford to drive to the election polls, and a myriad of other anti-American, anti-democracy bull crap too numerous to mention or even remember.

    When a magat wiggles its slimy body for locomotion, you can tell it is lying to you.

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