Biden said, “As I come here in commemoration, not for show, Selma is a reckoning.” “The right to vote, the right to have your vote counted – is the threshold of democracy and freedom. With it, anything is possible. Without it, without it, nothing is possible.”
Biden is attempting to raise an issue for which he has unsuccessfully fought since the beginning of his presidency, urging Congress to pass changes to voting rights despite sharp political divisions on Capitol Hill. disseminated suggestive images for
He invoked the legacy of John Lewis, the late congressman and civil rights icon who was beaten to death on the bridge Biden walked on after 58 years. The president and other leaders have pushed for legislation named after Lewis that would reauthorize parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Supreme Court canceled in 2013, House passed a bill in 2021, but the measure failed to get a vote in the Senate. Legislation’s prospects look grim this year after the GOP gains control of the House in 2022 midterms,
After the speech, Biden walked across the bridge with several dozen black leaders, lawmakers and others, an act of solidarity in a place that was once a symbol of struggle.
it was here where protesters in 1965Several weeks after an Alabama trooper shot a young black man named Jimmie Lee Jackson, Lewis was among the leaders gathered. Lewis, 25, and 600 others were beaten with whips and billy clubs by Alabama state troopers as they made the 54-mile walk to the state capital in Montgomery as they crossed the bridge.
The images of police brutality shocked the nation. Shortly after, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
It has been a venue where others — including Biden himself — have come and called for a renewed fight for voting rights, pushing for more early voting or voter ID laws and combating other barriers that have been introduced since the 2020 election, particularly in states with GOP-controlled legislatures.
It was the first time Biden visited the site as president, and even in his long political career, he has only been here a few times. While civil rights have often been a point of pride for Biden in his early years in politics, it has also been a source of regret.
In 2013, when he made remarks to the nation’s first black president as vice president, he made a few unscripted remarks before joining the crowd walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Biden said, “I’m sorry — and although it’s not part of what I’m saying — I’m sorry it took me 48 years to get here.” “I should have been here. It is one of the regrets of me and many people of my generation.
He had seen the first march, he said, when he was a senior in college. He said it was an event that would inform his worldview and strengthen his convictions.
“I remember how guilty I was that I wasn’t here,” he said here on Sunday. “How can we all be there and go through what you went through? I can still see the soldiers with their batons and sticks and whips.
Biden also spoke in Selma during his presidential campaign in 2020, addressing a crowd at the historic Brown Chapel AME Church hours after winning the South Carolina primary – a victory that would propel him to the nomination. In 2021, he recorded a video message that played during the event.
Every time Biden has spoken, he has made reference to the need to expand voting rights.
“What you all did here 48 years ago changed the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the American people. That’s why I am absolutely confident that we will win this new battle regarding voter access and the right to vote.”
It’s a subject he returned to on Sunday.
“No matter how hard some people try, we just can’t choose what we want to know and what we need to know,” Biden said. “We must learn everything – the good, the bad, the truth – about who we are as a nation. And everyone must know the truth of Selma.
He tried to connect the events of 58 years ago with the modern times.
“After a deadly uprising on January 6th, we must be vigilant,” he said. He referenced some of the laws he has enacted and the executive orders he has signed.
“But we know we must get the votes in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act,” he said. “I have made it clear that I will not allow a filibuster to hinder the sacred right to vote.”
Biden also mentioned other parts of his agenda, including a ban on assault weapons, economic policies and a criminal justice overhaul. He also referred to disaster relief funds for the region, which is recovering from the storm two months ago.
After touting health care policies, with the slogan sounding like a re-election candidate, he shouted: “Let’s finish the job!”
Several prominent civil rights activists, including the Rev. William Barber II, wrote to Biden and members of Congress before the events in Selma, saying they were disappointed that they had not done more to encourage needed systemic changes. Has gone.
“Voting rights were not highlighted in this year’s State of the Union, but we have fewer voting rights today than we did on August 6, 1965,” the group wrote. “Economic investment in the South and places like Selma was not a central theme in this year’s State of the Union, but we know that if you stifle votes and withhold living wages, poor people of every race suffer and democracy suffers. The promise of ,
Biden has previously sought to use historical sites to urge change. In July 2021, he traveled to Philadelphia, speaking at the National Constitution Center, and delivered a forceful condemnation of voting restrictions, comparing them to the greatest threat to American democracy since the Civil War. In January, he preached At Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached, the call for change was made.
During the first year of his presidency, he frequently resisted Senate calls to override the filibuster, which was seen by advocates as the best, and perhaps the only, beginning of the kind of changes Biden was seeking. . He later pushed for changes to Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation — and he turned up the rhetorical heat by suggesting those standing in the way of the law were aligned with racist policies and politicians. But the legislation that passed the House never passed the Senate.
Now his party has lost control of the House, making any sweeping changes even less likely.
Many in the crowd said they were disappointed that voting rights are less secure now than they were in 1965, but they did not blame Biden for the setbacks.
,[Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and other so-called representatives need to do more,” said Earl Kelton, a 77-year-old retired teacher from Augusta, Ga. “He can only sign a bill. It is the Congress which has to be held accountable. He can use his dabang platform, but he cannot pass laws.”
“It’s like her hands are tied,” said Delores Gresham, a 65-year-old retired health care worker from Birmingham. “There’s only so much he can do.”
Representative James E. Clyburn (DSC), an influential White House aide whose endorsement of Biden was credited with rescuing his 2020 primary campaign, said here in Selma that any lack of progress was the Senate’s fault. Was. “I think most people know this,” he said.
“We all know that the issue is held up with a filibuster, and we cannot get the votes needed to break the filibuster. The president does not have a vote in the Senate,” he said. “It’s a Senate problem. We have to elect senators who are willing to get rid of — let’s just call it what it is — Jim Crow era laws.