Biden confronts a skeptical base as he pushes for suffrage in Georgia

As Brown sees it, she helped give the Democrats power, but a year later, she and other black voters are worse off when it comes to their voting ability. There is frustration evident in her voice as she explains how the right to vote still does not seem to be a priority for the administration.

“It makes the job harder for us,” Brown said. “What should I go back and tell people? …. How do I convince them to show up again?”

Brown’s skepticism exemplified the political scrub Biden entered when he landed in Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver his latest speech on the need to protect democracy, adopt electoral reforms and, if necessary, revise Senate rules. After months of inaction, those who have demanded his help are increasingly doubting that he can deliver.

A number of groups boycotted Biden’s speech. And the state’s most high-profile suffrage activist – gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams – also did not show up, citing an unspecified planning conflict.

The bid’s speech, held at the Atlanta University Center Consortium on a brisk afternoon, served not only to focus on the attack on state Republican ballot laws restricting access to ballot papers, but to keep the very democratic base that Brown says is disillusioned, committed.

The president, who served more than 30 years in a senate that has now become a thorn in his side, continued to push back against anti-democratic forces led by his predecessor. A self-proclaimed “institutionalist,” he condemned the chamber he once served in as a “shell of its former selves” and warned that “the threat to our democracy is so serious” that it justified “getting rid of the filibuster.” if one voted. rights legislation can not be implemented in any other way.

Biden appealed to national lawmakers’ sense of history, reminding the public that he is “so damn old” that he was alive and started college in 1963, when Fannie Lou Hamer was pulled by a bus, jailed and beaten, after to have registered voters in Mississippi. He asked national and state lawmakers how they would like to be remembered when faced with the same issues their predecessors faced, whether it was in the wake of Bloody Sunday in Selma or during Lyndon B. Johnson’s adoption of 1965 Voting Rights Act. It seemed at times as if Biden was also asking the question to himself.

“I ask all elected officials in America how you want to be remembered? The following moments in history present an election,” Biden said. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. Kings or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the time to decide to defend our choices, to defend ours. democracy.”

Those who showed up to see Biden speak said they were eager to hear him and Vice President Kamala Harris present their case. In interviews with a dozen participants, including organizers, city council members, students and civil rights leaders, two things were repeated: a desire for Biden to lay out a plan for the adoption of the two bills for the Senate and a rude, persistent and loud approval of that modify or remove the filibuster.

“I wish they would have done it sooner, but I’m glad they do it now,” said Melanie Campbell, who attended a virtual meeting with White House officials and other civil rights leaders last week. Campbell and other leading black female organizers had asked that Harris and Biden come to Georgia.

Some participants claimed that Biden was not the obstacle. “We must all remember that the FDR and the LBJ had a significant majority in Congress. The Senate is the problem, not the President, and until we change the composition of the Senate, it will unfortunately be an uphill battle to promote civil rights,” Neil said. Makhija, executive director of the national South Asian civic organization IMPACT, who attended the Atlanta speech.

But for others, the skepticism was not too far below the surface. Gerald Riggs, a member of the Atlanta NAACP, offered a warning similar to the Browns’ when he mingled with other local organizers, elected officials and agents waiting for the BIden.

“We mobilized far too many people for the ballot box with the promise of the adoption of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and George Floyd’s Judiciary and Police Act, none of which have been moved forward,” Riggs said. “So I speak on behalf of all the activists that I mobilized and the voters that we mobilized. They would like to hear about that. No more apologies.”

The White House has repeatedly defended the order of Biden’s agenda, noting that he entered the oval office at an unprecedented time when a global pandemic raged and the Americans suffered an economic downturn. Aides also note that attacks on democracy and the protection of voting rights are the reason why Biden launched his campaign, arguing that Biden has far from been shy about the threats facing the country.

The bid came two days inside Georgia’s new state assembly as Republicans sought to expand the bill they passed last year, which was spurred on by former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election. This time, some Republicans are pushing for another measure ban drop boxes for absent ballot papers in general.

On Tuesday morning, inside Georgia State House, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, outlined his own proposals for federal election legislation – which includes amending the constitution to require “citizen-only voting” and national voter ID laws – while accusing Biden of to press on. for a “federal election.” Baoky Vu, a Republican who was ousted from his position on the DeKalb County Electoral Board and censored by his local party to oppose his party’s restrictive election laws, he said he supported Raffensperger’s re-election bid. But he also continues to worry about the voting proposals passed in Georgia last year.

“This is a step-by-step, deliberate attempt to undermine the very institutions of democracy,” Vu said of the dynamism in Georgia and across the country. “That’s why I think it’s so important to have people focus on what can be done at the federal level.”

While some Georgia Democrats were happy to see the president focus on these laws, others were curious as to why Biden was not elsewhere. Among dozens of local Georgia Democrats who chose not to show up Tuesday was Erick Allen, a candidate for lieutenant governor and chairman of the Cobb County delegation in State House.

“I think it’s appropriate to make this your first stop to honor the legacy of John Lewis’ work, given that this is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act they are trying to get passed,” Allen said. “But I think there are other places that need to hear this message to put pressure on their senators to get this done. Georgia gave him the Senate majority. So we’ve done as much as we can on this . “

“If you’re going to Georgia, you’re also going to announce that the next time Air Force One’s tires hit the ground, it’ll be in Arizona and then in West Virginia,” Allen continued, referring to his home states. of the two Senate Democrats most resistant to changing the filibuster rules: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (DW.Va.)

But it was not just Biden’s presence, but Abrams’ absence that created the buzz at Tuesday’s event. Standing in line for security, a number of city councilors and local Democratic officials wondered aloud to each other why Georgia’s gubernatorial candidate was not present.

“It’s all over the news,” one woman said.

Abrams would later issue a statement highlighting that she and Biden were on the phone in the morning and had a conversation that “reaffirmed” their “shared commitment to the American project on freedom and democracy.”

For the activists watching, the talk of who or who was not present was ultimately a distraction from the big question: What would happen next? Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, praised Biden for his “mighty words,” but said he “had not prioritized the protection of voting rights in the same way that he prioritized other policy issues such as the BBB, infrastructure law or Covid relief. ” It was time, he said, for the president to recalibrate focus.

“The use of the bully ‘s pulpit is something that every president uses to create momentum for political initiatives. But he did it today. But until we actually have a bill on his desk, ready to sign, there is still a lot more work to be done. to get done. “

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