Are the Democrats About to Repeat Mistakes that Led to Jim Crow?Historians in the News
tags: Jim Crow, Reconstruction, voting rights, Joe Biden, disenfranchisement
There comes a point in every awful horror movie where a character does something so careless and shortsighted a viewer loses faith in the storyteller.
There's the hapless victim who can't flee from the monster without falling, the stubborn homeowner who won't move out of a haunted house, and my favorite: the person who walks toward, not away, from a sinister noise at night while asking, "Hello, is anyone there?"
As I watch some Democrats handle the voting rights issue, I'm seeing a replay of a 19th-century political horror story. It ended with Black voters losing faith in the leaders who were supposed to protect them.
President Biden has called voting rights "the single most important" issue and described a wave of voter restriction bills recently passed by Republican legislatures across the US as "Jim Crow on steroids."
Yet he has refused to throw the full weight of the Oval Office behind passing two pending voting rights bills in Congress. He has stopped short of embracing calls to jettison the filibuster -- the parliamentary tactic Republicans can use to halt a voting rights bill -- because he says it would "throw the entire Congress into chaos."
He's focused instead on passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill that could rejuvenate the economy and appeal to a broad swath of voters.
But for anyone who knows this country's shameful voting rights history, Biden is following a script that once doomed Black voters and made the rise of Jim Crow possible.
Biden and Democratic leaders who prioritize infrastructure in part to broaden their appeal to reluctant White supporters are making the same mistake White political allies of Black voters made in the late 19th century. That's when the more progressive American political party of that era -- the Republican Party -- abandoned Black voters to focus on an economic agenda that emphasized infrastructure and uniting a country that was bitterly divided by race.
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