President Biden gave one his most powerful speeches to date when he visited Georgia, the state seen by some as the cradle of the battle for our democracy. President Biden told the crowd that he is “tired of being quiet,” and he also made his first forceful endorsement of killing the filibuster. To make his point, the Guardian reported that President Biden drew connections between the civil rights movement, the January 6 insurrection, and the current ongoing efforts to suppress the vote. As expected, not everyone was happy with President Biden’s speech, as the Guardian also reported that several voting rights activists refused to attend the event, calling it a “waste of time.”
These attitudes are annoying. The president and vice president are doing everything they can to get voting laws passed. They cannot do it alone. The senate must pass voting rights legislation, and it requires 60 votes, unless and until the filibuster is eliminated. Roadblocks to demolishing the filibuster—Manchin and Sinema—make that difficult. Both claim that the filibuster “forges bipartisan compromise,” the Guardian reported, but how much “bipartisan compromise” have we seen since Joe Biden took office? Virtually none. Sure, a few Republicans finally got on board with President Biden’s infrastructure bill, but we will see none who support voting rights legislation. At the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse, Republicans do not want voting rights—period. They do not like when everyone votes and passing legislation that makes voting less stressful leads to more people voting. That is against everything Republicans stand for or support. We know that, and Joe Biden knows it.
President Biden is “tired of being quiet,” and he showed that in his speech. He rhetorically asked the crowd: “How do you want to be remembered? 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?” His speech was forceful, powerful, and sincere. If you did not believe the president’s own words, just look at the response from Republicans. Brian Kemp was livid, and Mitch McConnell called President Biden’s speech “profoundly unpresidential.” Where was McConnell when Trump was “profoundly unpresidential” daily? Whatever. That means Biden said something that struck a nerve with them. Majority Leader Schumer, energized by Biden’s speech. promised to bring a vote and that if it is defeated, he will move to hold a vote on the filibuster rules.
We certainly need some movement on voting rights, but it is not fair to blame President Biden. Republicans have been working overtime to limit our right to vote. Federal voting rights would override those laws by guaranteeing protections for mail-in voting, early voting, and same-day registration. This legislation would also usher in the return of the requirement for known discriminatory states to secure preclearance prior to changing rules. All of this is sorely needed. Voting is a right; it should be made easier to accomplish, not harder. Voting is the backbone of democracy, and without democracy, we are lost.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years