What could have been a rousing national prelude, not just for a 2022 federal franchise but also for the election campaigns to elect Stacey Abrams Georgia as governor of Georgia and re-elect Senator Raphael Warnock, has turned out to be anything but. Days after President Joe Biden was blown up for insufficient urgency in passing a voting bill, a coalition of key Georgian constituencies – the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, the New Georgia Project Action Fund, and the GALEO Impact Action Fund , who organizes Latinos, announced its leaders would not attend its events in Atlanta with Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Abrams herself approved of the visit but said she would miss it because of a “scheduling conflict”.
In retrospect, the failure was a long time coming. In an otherwise laudable suffrage speech last July, Biden insulted some activists by calling on them to “form a new coalition” behind the voting rights “to increase the urgency of this moment.” As I wrote at the time: “Respectfully, Mr. President, there is currently a living coalition; She elected you and a Democratic Senate, and it is a tremendous urgency. ”
In their letter to Biden, the groups wrote: “The voters in Georgia made history and made their voices heard, overcome obstacles, threats and repressive laws to liberate the White House and the US Senate. In return, they were forced to visit, forcing them to accept political platitudes and repetitive, boring promises. “
I asked Nsé Ufot, director of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, about the phrase “imposed”. Had any of the groups behind the letter been contacted by the Biden administration before the visit was announced? “Not that I know of,” she replied. But she disapproved of my use of the term “boycott” in relation to Tuesday’s breakup.
“I have a feeling ‘boycott’ is a little strong on what is happening today,” she said. “We don’t tell people not to go. What we are doing is to keep up the call for swift action on voting rights. We have been asking for urgent measures for a year. We ask: ‘What is the way to transfer voting rights?’ Period.”
While some Democrats on Twitter have described the group’s decision as “critical, even hostile” to Biden and Harris, Ufot said it thinks it just reflects different priorities. “Keeping the line here also requires an exceptional level of activism. Yesterday was the first day of the Georgian legislature: you led the way with the removal of mailboxes [for absentee votes]. ”Ufot himself will be working on organizing in Lincoln County on Tuesday, where election officials are trying to close seven out of eight polling stations. “It’s 30 percent black and the only polling station is on the white side of town,” she added, underscoring the ongoing and escalating risk for Georgia’s black voters.
Other squad leaders didn’t sound as conciliatory as Ufot. “It was very clear that this was not a priority for [Biden]”Black Voters Matter Fund co-founder LaTosha Brown told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Monday night. “The way he talked about infrastructure is not the way he talked about voting rights. This speaks to the frustration of the local groups. We have less voter protection now than we did a year ago. ”Reid pushed back gently, noting that Biden cannot pass suffrage laws that were almost unanimously rejected by Republicans unless Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema change them their stance on changing the filibuster.
Bee Nguyen, Atlanta representative who is running for Foreign Secretary in November, feels right in the middle of it all. “I plan to take part,” she told me. But her sister, Phi, is the executive director of AAAF’s Education and Advocacy Division, Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“I feel like I have to be there, but I don’t want these groups to be thrown under the bus,” says Nguyen. While working on the ground, voting organizers hear the frustration of the Georgia Democrats who delivered the White House and Senate majority “because they wanted to see state voting legislation.” Nguyen is particularly frustrated with the media conversation, which tends to portray the groups’ decision as a destructive blame against the Biden government. Social media attacks by some mainstream Democrats have been particularly sharp.
“How are we in a place where people are attacking Nsé and LaTosha?” She asks.
Mainstream media organizations have actually hyped the divide. politicsThe headline on Tuesday’s Playbook titled “Biden Received Rude Welcome to Georgia.” And without any evidence I know of, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough told viewers this morning that Stacey Abrams “obviously doesn’t want to be on the same stage as Joe Biden”. (I was unable to reach the Abrams campaign for comment by the deadline.)
But movements and even compassionate elected representatives often split up on difficult issues. In early 1965, President Lyndon Johnson pleaded with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested not pushing for legislation on voting rights as he focused on beginning his fight against poverty. King went to Selma – where the late John Lewis was already before him – and still joined the proxy vote. Five months after Bloody Sunday, Johnson signed the voting rights bill. “With every major move there are different tactics out there [government] and inside, ”said Nguyen.
Group leaders who will not attend Biden and Harris’ speeches will respond in a live Instagram event on Tuesday evening at 7:30 a.m.