Opinion: MLK White Moderates Warned Us About

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote these words in isolation from a Birmingham jail, where he was jailed for defying a court injunction to protest the city’s segregation ordinance. In an open letter, originally scribbled in the margins of a newspaper, Dr King addressed a group of other clergy who claimed to support the black freedom movement but criticized nonviolent civil disobedience as a tactic to confront the evils of segregation.
In the letter, King differentiated between just and unjust laws, citing measures that prevented black Americans from voting as a form of legalized injustice. At the time, Alabama, like many Southern states, was governed by a sort of racial authoritarianism that deprived black people of a say in how they were governed. Churchmen’s condemnation of King’s activism belied their stated commitment to racial justice and covered up the denial of basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote.

By blocking voting reform today, the senses. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the white moderates Dr. King warned us about.

On Thursday, Sinema said that while she supports Democrats’ suffrage laws, she would not support an exception to the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation. Manchin then followed suit, saying he would not vote to “remove or weaken the filibuster”.
By prioritizing an arcane Senate rule on protecting voting rights, Manchin and Sinema chose “order” over justice. Clergy Dr King addressed similar procedural and strategic complaints in his letter about the urgent need for racial equality, even though Birmingham City officials secured an injunction against civil rights protests and were negotiating in bad faith with civil rights activists. By asserting that the movement should continue to negotiate with those who were united in their opposition to racial progress, the clerics were effectively siding with segregation and suborning black rights to white whims.
Manchin and Sinema’s procedural complaints about the filibuster are reminiscent of the clerics Dr. King faced. Manchin expressed concern that an exception to the suffrage legislation would lead to a slippery slope rule changes. But he fails to understand that disenfranchisement creates another slippery slope for those who are denied access to the ballot – a more dangerous slope that makes it easier to restrict their other rights. Sinema says she also fears the filibuster amendment will erode Americans’ trust in government and increase political division. But what is a greater threat to faith in government than being denied the right to vote?
Together, these senators’ position conveniently ignores the fact that Republicans and Democrats have changed Senate rules when it serves their political agenda. Mitch McConnell changed the filibuster in 2017, paving the way for the confirmation of three conservative Supreme Court justices by a simple majority. Democrats also changed the rules in 2013, eliminating the filibuster for most presidential nominations. Since both parties have shown a willingness to change Senate rules to achieve their goals, Manchin and Sinema’s refusal prioritizes loyalty to the filibuster over minority voting rights. Loyalty to anti-democratic procedures that target minority rights is always reprehensible. But that’s especially true when the United States faces an attack on suffrage that has gone unseen. since the end of the Reconstruction.
Senator Reverend Warnock of Georgia, intellectual and spiritual heir to Dr King as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has been laying out the issues for months, noting the filibuster protects the minority rights of Republican senators while these same senators block the rights of minority voters. Warnock also noted that, in a bipartisan move, senators used a filibuster exclusion to raise the debt ceiling in December, but were unwilling to do so for basic democratic rights.
The alarming prospect raised by the Supreme Court rulings
Even the events of January 6, 2021, were not enough to convince the Republicans of the need for a vote and electoral reforms. Commentators disagree whether the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection, a coup attempt, an uprising or a riot. But more and more experts prevent the threat to our multiracial democracy has only increased since the attack on the Capitol.
After Jan. 6, many congressional Republicans refused to break with former President Donald Trump and exposed his lies about voter fraud for fear of retaliation. Fearing electoral repercussions and with no legislative program As the 2022 midterm elections approach, Republicans seem instead concerned about securing their power by gaining an unfair advantage through voter restriction laws.
Even Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who spoke out against Trump’s “big lie,” said turned away to criticize the voter restriction laws that Republican-led state legislatures have passed, presenting them instead as an approach to state voting rights that bolsters the very undemocratic forces it claims to oppose.
In 2021, more than 440 tickets that include provisions that restrict access to voting have been introduced in 49 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Many of these changes to voting procedures came after a decades-long campaign to push back on the right to vote. There was the Southern Strategy, who used Neutral-sounding “colorblind” rhetoric and politics roll back the achievements of the civil rights movement and target suffrage law. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states to receive permission from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before making procedural changes. of voting. This set the stage for the current wave of voter suppression.
Is Biden's presidency doomed?
Republican voters also took an anti-democratic turn. Only 28% Republican voters — fueled by a conservative media infrastructure plagued by misinformation — believe Biden’s 2020 victory was legit.
The Republican attack on democratic standards has not stopped with state-level attempts to undermine the franchise; they also attacked the local election administration. Conspiracy theories about election irregularities and in-person voter fraud inspired a crop of conservative activists to run for election administration roles at the state and local levels. It didn’t help that some officials who had pledged to hold fair elections faced a number of violent threats after Trump repeatedly spread lies about voter fraud. Naturally, in the face of these threats, some officials have chose to resign rather than putting themselves and their families at risk.
The voting rights bills that Manchin and Sinema are blocking would help alleviate some of the most glaring problems with the country’s current anti-democracy push. the John Lewis Advancement of Suffrage Act would update provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act weakened by the Supreme Court, once again requiring prior authorization for potentially discriminatory electoral changes. the Freedom to Vote Act expand access to voting by, among other things, establishing minimum periods for early voting and making Election Day a national holiday. These reforms are non-partisan and it seems that the Republican opposition is based on the recognition that democracy itself harms the electoral chances of the party.

American multiracial democracy is a recent and fragile invention. After all, Dr. King was protesting for the protection of rights supposedly guaranteed by the 15th Amendment but denied for nearly a century by anti-democratic schemes that kept black Americans from voting. The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally guaranteed black suffrage and led to a dramatic increase in voting and substantial representation. But conservatives on the Supreme Court have significantly undermined that law, and now voting rights are under attack again by Republicans in an effort to maintain and secure power.

Manchin and Sinema’s assertion that they want a two-party solution to suffrage is, at best, a refusal to face political reality. At worst, their supposedly moderate stance in defense of filibuster hides anti-democratic extremism reminiscent of many of the worst times in American history. To paraphrase Dr. King, by choosing order over justice, they remain the nation’s great stumbling block in the quest for a fully inclusive democracy.

“Voting Rights: An Ongoing Fight for the Ballot” is presented by CITIZEN by CNN on Wednesday, January 19 at 2 p.m. ET. Join Dana Bash, John King, Abby Phillip and Manu Raju and RSVP at www.cnn.com/citizen

Comments are closed.