In a speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden called for a major overhaul of U.S. election laws and compared those who oppose the reforms to segregationists and supporters of slavery.
It all sounds pretty radical for a guy who campaigned on unity and a return to the status quo.
Biden went down to Atlanta, Georgia, and left his past scruples behind to give the hard-line voting rights speech progressives have been demanding.
Watch President Biden's speech at 8pm ET on C-SPAN.
Watch anytime online here: https://t.co/TtzjkCALyK
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 12, 2022
1. NOW: Biden told the crowd he was ready to blow a hole in the Senate filibuster, or 60-vote threshold, to ram through a pair of GOP-opposed bills that would federalize elections in the U.S.
- “I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden.
- “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
THEN: Eliminating the filibuster would be the “arrogance of power” and a “fundamental power grab by the majority party,” Biden said on the floor of the Senate in 2005, when he was a senator from Delaware.
2022 Joe Biden really needs to listen to 2005 Joe Biden's speech on why the filibuster is important:pic.twitter.com/mE9on5A6J2
— Stand For America (@StandForAmerica) January 6, 2022
2. NOW: Biden declared Tuesday that Republicans who oppose Democrats’ voting reforms are on the same side of history as segregationists and Confederate secessionists.
- “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King 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 moment to decide. To defend our elections, to defend our democracy,” the president said.
THEN: Biden was so committed to his 2020 presidential campaign themes of unity and tolerance that in June he refused to apologize for fondly recalling the “civility” of his working relationships with two segregationist lawmakers.
Joe Biden after Booker said he should apologize for praising a racist segregationist senator: “Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better…there's not a racist bone in my body.” (via @thehill) pic.twitter.com/Zqk93yFVVn
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) June 20, 2019
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. Lower the temperature,” Biden said on Nov. 7, 2020, in his first speech as president-elect “See each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
3. NOW: Biden on Tuesday questioned the integrity of future U.S. elections overseen by Republican officials.
- “And here’s how they plan to subvert the election: The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials,” he said, referencing state GOP bills aimed at securing elections.
THEN: Just last week, Biden slammed his predecessor for undermining public trust in U.S. elections.
- “The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle. He can’t accept he lost,” he said Thursday at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
WHY IS HE DOING THIS?
- So why is Biden setting his hair on fire?
The White House has faced heavy pressure from progressive activists, stung by the failure of the Build Back Better Act, to act on voting rights.
- But Biden’s pandering speech in Atlanta doesn’t seem to have satisfied the base anyway.
Some voting rights groups boycotted the president’s remarks, saying they were too little, too late, and Stacey Abrams, a Georgia gubernatorial candidate and progressive voting rights celebrity, didn’t attend, citing a scheduling conflict.
- After the address, NAACP president Derek Johnson said, “While President Biden delivered a stirring speech today, it’s time for this administration to match their words with actions, and for Congress to do their job.”
- Cliff Albright, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, sounded even less impressed: “Damage has been done, and it’s not quite clear how much of that damage we’ll be able to undo.”