Joe Anderson at Slate Magazine has a great piece where he trashes Republicans like Kevin McCarthy, Brian Kemp and the Cato Institute for praising Rep. John Lewis (D. GA) as a hero while constantly blocking his legacy on voting rights. But Anderson really singles out the biggest obstructionist to Lewis’ legacy while praising him as a hero: Mitch McConnell.
But by 2007, McConnell did not appear very committed to the fight that continued to fuel Lewis and his work. That year McConnell proposed an amendment to a Senate immigration bill that would have changed the Voting Rights Act to require that all voters show photo identification. From then on, McConnell was stubbornly against any measures to restore any pieces of the legislation that he’d witnessed signed into law a half-century before. “It’s been a big success. It’s worked,” he insisted of the now-kneecapped Voting Rights Act. “It’s important to understand how different the South is now. America has come a long way.”
Lewis, of course, knew better. He was in the Supreme Court chamber during the challenge to the Voting Rights Act, later telling Ari Berman of Mother Jones that “he almost cried when Justice Antonin Scalia compared the VRA to a ‘racial entitlement.’”
In many ways, McConnell’s betrayal was what kept Lewis working in his final years. “In December 2019, Lewis presided over the House as it passed legislation to restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act, requiring states with a long history of voting discrimination to once again get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures,” Berman writes. “In a primary season marred by voting problems, like six-hour lines in Lewis’ home state of Georgia, it’s been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for 225 days.”
Moscow Mitch’s opponent, Amy McGrath (D. KY), along with other Democrats and progressive voices have been calling out McConnell’s hypocrisy:
Mitch bends over backwards to push tax cuts for the wealthy and campaign finance deregulation but can never find time to hold votes on bills for civil rights, voting rights and racial equality. pic.twitter.com/1QTebGXJFUÃ¢ÂÂ Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) July 19, 2020
We will pass it next year after McConnell is out. https://t.co/7IzZpRDZvh
Ã¢ÂÂ Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) July 19, 2020
Leader McConnell-John Lewis almost died marching for the Voting Rights Act. Why has a bill to restore that law been sitting on your desk for 225 days? Let's finally pass this bill next week and name it in honor of Rep. John Lewis. https://t.co/7ZDobYVymf
Ã¢ÂÂ Sen. Debbie Stabenow (@SenStabenow) July 18, 2020
How about honoring John LewisÃ¢ÂÂ life and sacrifices by restoring the Voting Rights Act that has been sitting on your desk intentionally with no action for 225 days instead of posting statements. Actions speak louder than words @senatemajldr https://t.co/GQ7VBjFCW9
Ã¢ÂÂ Sunny Hostin (@sunny) July 18, 2020
If Mitch McConnell is serious about honoring John Lewis, he can begin by leading the Senate in enacting the Restore the Voting Rights Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. https://t.co/ovC37iArgt
Ã¢ÂÂ John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) July 18, 2020
But as much as Lewis wanted people to know civil rights history, he also wanted them to know that the fight for voting rights didn’t end in 1965. “I truly believe,” Lewis said last year, when Democrats introduced a sweeping democracy reform bill to make it easier to vote, “that the way votes were not counted and purged in states like Georgia and Florida and other states changed the outcome of the last election. That must never happen again in our country. We will make it illegal.” The bill, HR 1: The For the People Act, passed the House, but Senate Republicans never brought it up for a vote.
In December 2019, Lewis presided over the House as it passed legislation to restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act, requiring states with a long history of voting discrimination to once again get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures. In a primary season marred by voting problems, like six-hour lines in Lewis’ home state of Georgia, it’s been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for 225 days.
Lewis, ultimately, was a man of action, not words. As he said many times, he spoke with his body and his feet—marching, protesting, getting arrested more than 40 times to advocate for change. There have already been petitions to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge (named after a former Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan) to honor Lewis. Maybe one day, a new Voting Rights Act will be named after him as well.
We need to get rid of McConnell and Trump to make Lewis’ legacy become reality. Let’s take back the White House and the U.S. Senate. Click below to donate and get involved with McGrath and Biden’s campaigns: