Fight over voting rights legislation in US - GulfToday

Fight over voting rights legislation in US

US voters

Image used for illustrative purpose only.

It should come as a surprise that in the oldest democracy in the world, there is still a political struggle over voting rights, and that though they are universal on the statute book there are invisible discriminatory hurdles, especially targeting the Blacks and other minorities. Two bills, Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Rights Act, are dangling in the United States Senate as the Republicans are strongly opposed. The two bills propose that Election Day should be a holiday and register new voters, and, also, increase oversight federal government in local elections to check discriminatory practices. The Republicans are resorting to the well-know delaying tactic of filibuster, where a member can speak continuously to delay the passing of bills.

President Joe Biden told Democrat senators to pick up courage and alter the Senate rules which will not allow the tactic of the filibuster to stop the passing of bills. Biden has compared the need to pass these two new voting bills to that of the passing of Civil Rights Act during the term of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, which gave the Blacks right to vote.

The new law allowing for the registration of new voters would enable more black voters to register, and generally blacks have voted for the Democrats. The Republicans suspect that this is a partisan law intended to help the Democrats. The Republicans are also opposed to the federal government interfering in local elections.

Biden has challenged the Republicans to choose between Martin Luther King Jr, who fought for equality of blacks in the polity, and Republicans like Alabama governor George Wallace who had opposed desegregation of educational institutions, which allowed black students to attend ‘whites only’ schools and colleges. It is to be seen whether former president Donald Trump-influenced Republican Party, with its undeniable overtones of white supremacism, would appreciate the moral challenge posed by Biden.

In many southern states, local governments and officials, resort to rules to restrict black voter registration and black voting. The proposed legislation is intended to check this tendency. In the four years of the Trump presidency between 2016 and 2020, and a little before that, white discontent has been growing across America. Most of the whites, especially those in the working class and those who did not go to college, have nursed the grievance that in America the whites are losing their place and that they have to fight to regain and retain it. That is why Trump had coined the slogan, ‘America First’, to imply that whites must get their jobs. Trump had however argued that he meant all Americans, including blacks and other immigrants, but most of policy stances were slanted against the blacks and the migrants. There has also been a surge in far-right white politics, and Trump’s position has indirectly encouraged them. The January 6 attack on the US Congress in the face of Trump’s defeat in the presidential election was really an expression of white frustration and white anger.

It is not surprising that the two voting rights bills awaiting enactment by the Senate are not moving forward. These bills have only stoked the fears of the white majority that they are being edged out of electoral politics. The blacks have not ever posed a threat to the whites. But the increasing number of immigrants from Latin America and Asia is a matter of concern to the white majority. America is a multi-racial society by historical accident as it had evolved in the 20th century, especially in the second half of the century. Whites must share their democratic rights with blacks, Latin Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, Chinese and Koreans.

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