America does not seem to understand that “Voting Rights” is not just a Black thing. I say that because it seems that only Black people truly care about the right to vote. Senators Manchin and Sinema certainly do not care about voting rights. What they do not understand is that this unholy alliance between racism and autocracy are targeting Black and Latino votes because we are the low-hanging fruit. If they are successful with this round of shrinking the franchise, they will come back for White voters as well who do not think or act the way they do. This is why the filibuster is not sacred. It might be an idolatrous sacred cow, but it is definitely not constitutional. The malady that finds Black people struggling for voting rights in 2022 long after John Lewis has died and long after he was beaten crossing that bridge in Selma, is a deeper malady than just two White Senators who refuse to budge on a sordid little principle. We must constantly remind ourselves that this nation was founded on a republican principle, not a democratic principle. There is no popular vote count for the first President of the United States. U.S. Senators were originally elected by state legislatures. Only White males who met property qualifications could actually vote. White women were excluded from voting. People of color were not allowed to vote. Even a sizeable number of that population was disenfranchised and enslaved. The Fifteenth Amendment address the color issue and voting. The Nineteenth Amendment addressed the gender issue and voting. However, it was not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the issue of democracy was addressed. Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was not a President. However, he was one of the founders of democracy. We may also place the name of John Lewis alongside that of Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the founders of democracy in the United States.
America’s original sin of African enslavement and a highly exclusive franchise were ideas made manifest. Ideas do not die. They may change form. Racism is more contagious than Covid-19. Wearing masks for protection is nothing new. Paul Laurence Dunbar suggested wearing masks a long time ago. Even though we have come to associate this current push to withhold the franchise with names such as Manchin, Sinema, Republican, the Roberts Court, these names are but reifications of those ancient ideas that were present at the founding of this country which found their way into the U.S. Constitution. In my Legislative Process class, I lecture about how a bill becomes law. Since the rise of Trump, White nationalism, and the Presidential Election of 2020, now have to teach about “How a Lie Becomes Law.” Many state legislatures are passing election and voting laws based on a lie that was told by former President Donald Trump. The lie is a begging-the-question assertion that he actually won the 2020 Presidential race. Can you imagine Bill Belichick getting up at a news conference this morning and claiming that the New England Patriots actually won last night’s playoff game against the Buffalo Bills? If such were to happen, we would know that it is time for Belichick to retire. The sad part is that some football fans would believe him. Such is the case with Donald Trump and his lying about the election. We all know that it is time for him to move out to pasture. On the other hand, the sad part is that some people actually believe Trump. Trump’s lies and actions are totally incongruent with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. He should not show his abominable face in public anywhere on the King Holiday.
Sometimes I think that Sisyphus must have lived in the United States. After the event of 1965, and after Presidents Reagan and Bush both signed extensions of the Voting Rights Act, there is no justifiable reason as to why Black people have to take to the streets to protest on behalf of Voting Rights. Just this past weekend Martin Luther King, Jr., along with his wife and daughter Yolanda (Dr. King’s granddaughter) attended a Voting Rights rally in Arizona. Why was this necessary? Dr. King’s granddaughter should not have to walk the streets for Voting Rights protection. Her grandfather died for that a long time ago. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, stand back and witness the United States. Reflect on where we are as a nation and from whence, we have come as a nation. King and Lewis’s helped found democracy in the United States. Together they wrote a beautiful song like Lennon and McCartney. Yet, there is an element in America today that is tired of what democracy has done regarding equality. They would prefer to scrap America and go in a different direction. Madison and Jefferson’s helped found the United States which did not mind improving into a more perfect union. Like Lennon and McCartney, they wrote a beautiful song. Yet, there is an element in America today that sees liberty as an autocracy. They simply do not want to form a more perfect union. They are trying with all their might and very little insight to put a halt to the United States of America.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) and is currently an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, and books: Oral Presidency and The American Political Narrative in addition to three collections of verse including Love Agnostic: The Eternal Protest.