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COMMENTARY: The Push for Voting Rights Now Is the Fight Against Jim Crow 2.0

The inability to pass voting rights comes on the same week as MLK Day in America and serves as a reminder. Setbacks are all temporary, the fight is constant. The memory of Dr. King motivates us to stay true to the dream.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See his show on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Because he was dreaming.

Joe Biden thought he could get Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to unite with 48 other Democrats to pass both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The Freedom to Vote Act would make voting a federal holiday and make voting easier, not harder. It would also make sure the redistricting process would be fair and uniform and reflect population gains. Asian Americans and other people of color wouldn’t be left out by gerrymandering.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act simply restores the teeth of federal oversight to make sure states don’t pass harmful election laws that cut minorities out of the process. We’re trying to get back to the ideals of the original law.

Both bills prove that the threat to democracy is real. Democracy is not an abstract ideal. You see it when you go to vote. And when you are stopped from casting a vote, that’s as real as it gets. You have been rendered voiceless and uncountable.

In a democracy, that shouldn’t happen. That’s why the proposed voting rights legislation should be a no-brainer.

In that Atlanta speech, Biden asked another no-brainer question: “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?”

Do you want to be with a person of love, or one of hate?

Hard to believe in 2022 that’s still a hard question for some.

Biden needed to get around the Republicans’ certain filibuster intended to block the legislation. That would require all 50 Senate Democrats to vote to change the filibuster rule.

And, of course, the same two people who blocked Biden on his baby “New Deal,” a.k.a. “Build Back Better” plan are in the way: Manchin of West Virginia and Sinema of Arizona.

Sinema this time supplied the dagger to kill voting rights.

“While I continue to support these bills,” Sinema said, “I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

But, of course, in signaling she would allow the Republicans to filibuster, Sinema was doing just that: worsening the “underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

It’s unclear what Sinema wants in negotiation — beyond the power of a presidential takedown.

But it leaves Biden celebrating his first year in office with a party he can’t unite when he needs it, and a country that grades him with an approval rating in the low 40s.

Further, the inability to pass voting rights comes on the same week as MLK Day in America and serves as a reminder. Setbacks are all temporary, the fight is constant. The memory of Dr. King motivates us to stay true to the dream.

Vice President Kamala Harris had the best prescription moving forward: Expose the 50 Republicans in the Senate by name who failed to uphold your voting rights. And further expose Manchin and Sinema and any other Democrats who join them.

“I don’t think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy,” Harris told NBC News. “Especially when they took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.”

Voting rights was the issue in Selma. And it’s the issue now. Biden called it Jim Crow 2.0. Sadly, in 2022, the fight continues. There’s still much to overcome.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See his show on www.amok.com

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