“The notion that some new coalition can be formed that would allow for greater efforts at organizing and voter turnout is perhaps a bit unrealistic,” Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said. “We have already formed one of the most diverse and strongest coalitions in support of voting rights that ever existed. At the end of the day, that is inadequate to the challenge of the moment. We need federal legislation.” And that means breaking the filibuster.
The White House tried to deflect the criticism. Referring to “I think it’s very clear what he said,” senior adviser Cedric Richmond said, referring back to Biden’s speech in Philadelphia where he blasted voter suppression efforts, but fell short in not addressing the filibuster. “Which is: We’re going to have to meet this challenge in the courts, in the halls of Congress and in the streets.” He did say that. But in his CNN town hall this week, Biden did put the onus on activists. “Look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting,” Biden said. “You tried last time. More people voted last time than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history. […] They’re going to show up again. They’re going to do it again.”
Then he said “you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. […] Nothing at all will get done.” Rev. Dr. William Barber was pointed in rebutting that in a Twitter thread Friday.
Meanwhile, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are getting themselves arrested protesting the Senate’s refusal to end the filibuster. Because there is no other way of securing voting rights right now.
It’s not just activists on the left. This is Bill Kristol:
Bill Kristol. Neoconservative, Weekly Standard editor and Iraq War cheerleader.
There’s another point. There are forces at work in the states that no amount of organizing and activism can overcome: Republican redistricting and gerrymandering. The Leadership Conference pointed this out to Biden in a letter sent Thursday. “The upcoming redistricting cycle is expected to bring another round of extreme gerrymandering that will disproportionately dilute the votes of people of color. All the while, a torrent of special interest secret money is funding these cynical efforts.” They write “only federal legislation can ensure that our elections are safe and free and fully protect the franchise.”
Michael Li serves, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, backs that up with data.
“While we support the notion of a broad-based coalition of advocates, we cannot and should not have to organize our way out of the attacks and restrictions on voting that lawmakers are passing and proposing at the state level,” the members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to Biden. “Nor can we litigate our way out of this threat to democracy. Nothing can serve as a substitute for your direct engagement and leadership in efforts to secure the passage of these critical voting rights bills.”
“Your leadership in this moment carries great weight,” they conclude, “and we look forward to continuing our work with you to fulfill the promise of our democracy for all.”