OPINION: Black people cannot save a party unwilling to use the power Black people gave them in the first place.
President Joe Biden and the Democrats are in power, with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress thanks to Black voters. Meanwhile, the Dems are having a debate among themselves over whether they should use their power and pass legislation to combat GOP voter suppression and gerrymandering, or flush it all down the toilet and tell Black voters to out-organize themselves — and the Democratic Party — out of this mess.
If Biden and his party believe Black people marching in the streets, protesting at the offices of recalcitrant, racist white lawmakers, and getting arrested is sufficient, they are mistaken. And if they think they can disrespect Black voters without consequence — once again they are wrong.
Black people cannot save a party unwilling to use the power Black people gave them in the first place. This is not the 1960s, and we are not going through this again.
A national crisis is at hand, and the problems facing not only the Democratic Party, but the future of American democracy itself, are clear. On the one hand, Democrats are tripping, and rightly so, because they know they will lose the election over these restrictive GOP voting laws enacted in state legislatures across the country. As Nsé Ufot, CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project said, “If there isn’t a way for us to repeat what happened in November 2020, we’re f—ed.”
Early voters line up to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
With over 18 states passing voter suppression laws since January, Republicans — promoting the fraudulent notion Trump lost the election — understand that short of stopping people from voting, outright vote theft and terrorist violence, they cannot win with their unpopular policies and fascist ways. It matters not if Democrats have a majority of popular support if people cannot vote or if the vote is rigged.
The other side of the GOP voter suppression coin is partisan gerrymandering, which gives Republicans the power to redraw electoral districts in any way they please and to their advantage. Republicans only need to flip five seats to gain control of Congress. Gerrymandering the electoral map in four states alone — Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas — is enough for Republicans to retake the House.
This comes as nearly half of Republicans believe “a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands,” according to a recent poll, and 55% of Republicans say “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast we may have to use force to save it.” And it’s not as if Republicans have no record on violent insurrection.
Democrats respond to this existential crisis by longing for the good ol’ days when white moderates and white nationalists could shake hands in the spirit of bipartisanship and make decisions on the future of Black people. The solutions to fighting GOP voter suppression and election rigging are in front of our eyes — the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Some white moderate Democrats — living up to Dr. Martin Luther King’s disappointment that the white moderate is Black folks’ “great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom” — suggest they will not vote to eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster in the Senate, which requires a 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. And we can pretend this is a matter of principle on the part of the moderates, rather than an example of corruption and cash payments to protect an “honored” Senate procedure used to uphold segregation and lynching.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (Photo: Getty Images)
“At some point, we’re going to get to a binary choice between protecting our democracy and protecting an arcane Senate procedure,” said Eric Holder on the filibuster. “At the end of the day, you’re not going to get 10 Republicans [to support the For the People Act]. This is something Democrats will have to pass.”
Moreover, the White House has reportedly told civil rights leaders and voting rights groups it is possible to “out-organize voter suppression”— suggesting Biden and the Democrats are not willing to do the heavy lifting, get their people in line and pass the voting rights legislation. Instead, Biden thinks Black folks can protest and organize their way out of this mess and save the Democrats.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined a growing number of critics who believe Democrats must do more. “Communities cannot ‘out-organize’ voter suppression when those they organize to elect won’t protect the vote.& Even if they DO out-organize, the ground is being set to overturn results. The time to fight like hell for democracy is right now. We may not get another chance,” AOC tweeted.
In the meantime, Black people — even members of Congress — are staging civil disobedience actions and getting arrested over voting rights. And they should. Being Black in America is being in a 400-year state of protest; protest to save our lives and be treated as human beings. But are we expected to save Democrats and the entire nation from the White Citizens’ Council agenda of the Republican Party, when white Democrats won’t even lift a finger to assist?
President Biden needs to channel Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southern good ol’ boy who nevertheless passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Whatever went down between LBJ and those senators he took to the woodshed back in the 1960s, it worked. Biden must learn from this.
Today, Black people are asked to protest to regain the rights we won over 50 years ago. Democrats are disrespecting Black people when they expect us to save America, and injure ourselves for Team USA like work martyrs, yet they are in power and refuse to flex the power we gave them.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove.
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