Home Editorials We cannot forget Sens. Manchin and Sinema killed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

We cannot forget Sens. Manchin and Sinema killed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

by David W. Marshall
David W. Marshall

(TriceEdneyWire.com) Americans can have short memories at critical moments. Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville is not only aware of this key fact, but he governs by it. The U.S. senator from Alabama is obviously counting on the apathy and short memories of the voters from his state as he celebrates the fact that Alabama will receive $1.4 billion in federal funding to expand access to the internet statewide.

“Broadband is vital for the success of our rural communities and for our entire economy,” Tuberville wrote. “Great to see Alabama receive crucial funds to boost ongoing broadband efforts.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 22% of Americans in rural areas lack high-speed broadband infrastructure which is a modern-day necessity. Alabama is one of the nation’s poorest states; therefore, at $1.4 billion, only six states nationally are receiving more funding under the program. As Sen. Tuberville touts the benefits of this investment to his state, will his constituents remember how Tuberville actually voted against the bill that is providing the funding.

Will Tuberville’s rural supporters remember that the funding for this initiative was authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which President Biden signed in 2021? It’s unfortunate that the freshman senator may ultimately receive undeserved credit for delivering relief to residents living in Alabama’s most depressed areas.

The endless debate over the size and the role of government has become so politically and culturally entrenched that the basic need to responsibly rebuild America’s infrastructure gets restrained by those promoting a ‘limited government’ over a ‘big government.’ The term ‘limited government’ has always been associated with those who are deeply committed to waging America’s culture war.

The same war which, in recent years, effectively twisted the true meanings behind critical race theory (CRT), diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ‘wokeness.’ To supporters of ‘limited government’ it becomes a government of inaction rather than a flexible government where its limitations are meant to prevent all forms of abuse and corruption. When the term ‘limited government’ became a blind response to one of the most critical issues in our nation, it resulted in the long-term decay and neglect of our infrastructure system which is essential for the functioning of our society and commerce system.

Our aging infrastructure includes the vast network of highways, bridges, tunnels, railways and utilities necessary to maintain normalcy in daily life. In 2021 when the World Economic Forum ranked the United States 13th in the overall quality of infrastructure, we didn’t drop to that level overnight. More than 45,000 U.S. bridges are in poor condition according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Without a Democratic-controlled White House, Senate and House of Representatives, the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill would not be a law today that benefits both red and blue states and communities.

Republicans throughout past election cycles have scored a lot of political points by labeling Democrats as big-government liberals. When voters find themselves caught up in the emotions of talking points and political labels, they forget how much their personal lives benefit from programs such as Social Security and Medicare which are considered to be under the umbrella of ‘big government.’ While millions of Republican senior citizens depend on these programs just as much as Democratic and Independent seniors, they forget how Congressional Republican lawmakers have repeatedly sought ways to cut Social Security and Medicare. Social Security was put into place to allow senior citizens some degree of dignity during retirement.

These same voters will also forget how Republican lawmakers proposed repealing the health care provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. If the repeal became successful, everyone with Medicare will see higher drug prices. The debate over the role and size of government is divisive, but in reality voters from both parties have historically benefitted from Democratic ‘big-government’ initiatives because the investment in people will always be needed. As long as there are no political consequences to pay, lawmakers such as Sen. Tuberville will continue to oppose meaningful legislation while taking credit for it when the benefits to his constituents becomes obvious. Again, the same lawmakers will cut and repeal meaningful programs as long there is little or no consequences to pay at the ballot box.

Democratic voters also run the risk of having short memories.

There is unfinished business with important pieces of legislation such as police reform and voting rights which failed to advance into law. Both have a major impact on people of color. While the Republican opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was no surprise, it was the opposition from two Democratic Senators (Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) that killed it. Democratic voters cannot forget the importance of the legislation. It will restore a critical part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which required certain states to obtain federal approval before implementing laws which may be deemed restrictive to the voting rights for minorities. There are 15 months left until next year’s election.

It is a tall order for the Democrats to keep control of the White House and Senate while regaining control of the House with a strong enough majority to pass voting rights, police reform and immigration reform. It is the culture war which causes many Republicans to vote against their own self-interests. For voters of color, it has to be the opposite.

(David W. Marshall is founder of the faith based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at <www.davidwmarshallauthor.com>.)

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