After Senator Joe Manchin went public opposing the For the People Voting Rights Bill, very few felt that meeting with civil rights leaders would cause him to change one iota. Of course, he did not change his mind. The pleas of the civil rights leaders fell on deaf ears, just as the pleas of white Democratic leaders had fallen.
It was later reported that Manchin’s clarifying, definitive position, opposing the voting rights bill and getting rid of the filibuster rule, came after a conservative group resumed donating to his re-election campaign. Like many other politicians, Manchin’s main concern is re-election, not the good of the country, let alone the welfare of Black voters.
These facts re-emphasize the truth that supporters of democracy, especially Black people, must make sure that they do whatever is necessary to achieve the goals of the For the People and the John Lewis Voting Rights bills. (Without them, even the semblances of democracy and majority rule may be gone by the wayside.)
They also remind one that despite the good efforts and the good intentions of Republican allies during Reconstruction, it was the Black victims themselves who had to face the terrorists and the racist officials after the Union troops left the south. It thus became necessary for them to struggle, with only minimal help from white allies. It may be necessary to do the same today.
To put it another way, despite the position of Manchin, Black people must put forth their all, for the sake of their future. They can and should never think in terms of just one avenue or strategy. They can and should never think in terms of any permanent set of allies. Above all else, they must never give up, realizing that ways have been made out of no ways.
With that in mind, we offer a few thoughts for action.
- There must be a massive publicity campaign to let citizens, particularly in the large, swing states, know that they need to come out in unprecedented numbers to protest the Republican voter suppression tactics any time there is an attempt to implement them.
- Citizens must willingly initiate and/or join lawsuits designed to block the voter suppression tactics.
- The offices of state legislators and congresspersons must be flooded – verbally and physically – with the message that these officials must oppose or roll-back such voter suppression tactics.
- Voter education rallies and workshops need to be held prior to elections.
- On election days, citizens must be willing to help one another get to and from the polls – rides offered, baby-sitting offered, physical assistance provided, umbrellas and folding chairs provided, and support against bullies and intimidators volunteered.
- Furthermore, Black people and others who truly believe in democracy cannot afford to abandon the school curriculum to the conservative racists nor the streets to white militia groups at election time or otherwise.
In addition to these actions by individual citizens and civil and human rights groups, the justice department and homeland security must be pressured to do whatever they can to protect voting rights. Likewise, the president must be pressured to issue whatever executive orders he can to do the same. Federal judicial appointments also must be sped-up. In short, all things that can possibly help to overcome the voter suppression efforts need to be carried out.
The present bid for racist minority rule must not be permitted to succeed. As history has shown, once tyrants take control, they are not easily removed. It took years to get rid of authoritarian rule in Nazi, Germany; South Africa; and elsewhere. Even the Southern white resurgence after Reconstruction in America took nearly one hundred years to even temper. Truthfully, all three social entities – Germany, South Africa, and the Southern United States –are still trying to get to the democratic status where they should have been years ago.
If this opportunity to defeat authoritarian rule under the likes of Trump and the alt-right racists is lost, it will take generations for America to recover, if it ever does. Dictatorial regimes do not die quickly or easily.
We need to assure that once these elections are over, it cannot be said that Black people and otherwise oppressed and marginalized people did not fight back. Let it not be said that liberal and progressive whites did not do their part in advancing American democracy; that they washed their hands as did the “radical Republicans” in the 1870s.
We do not completely understand why Manchin stands where he stands. We just need to move ahead to protect our interests and those of humankind, which includes advancing genuine democracy rather than surrendering to racist, minority, or authoritarian rule.