Rather than highlighting the substance of his speech Tuesday at Spelman College in Atlanta and highlighting how endangered voting rights are for so many Americans, the right wing reporters and news agencies are sure to headline President Biden’s comment mistakes. And the most glaring one was when he said that “last week, President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those before and after moments in American history,” clearly referring to the Jan. 6 insurrection last year.
Far more important than flubbing his vice president’s title—one that is probably a wish for her in the future from her coterie of followers—Biden blasted those who are recklessly determined to turn back the clock before the Civil Rights Movement brought end to Jim Crow laws that blocked Black Americans from exercising their franchise.
“I’m tired of being quiet,” Biden almost shouted. “I will not yield. I will not flinch.” It was an outburst directed mainly at the GOP opposition, particularly in the Senate, but he could have meant some of it for the naysayers in his own party who have charged that he has been less than aggressive in dealing with the spread of voter suppression.
Voter suppression laws have been passed in 19 states and more are scheduled, a point that Biden repeatedly stressed. And there were several references to Trump and his continuing to insist that the election was a fraud.
“The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against him, simple as that,” Biden said, blasting Trump and his cohort intermittently between coughs.
With the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson seated in the audience (the Republicans will draw negative conclusions about the non-appearance of Stacey Abrams who had a scheduling conflict but stated her support), Biden, who followed Vice President Harris to the podium, invoked famous and infamous historical politicians, including John Lewis and Strom Thurmond, and got the loudest response when he declared that “we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.” He also emphasized the need to do away with the filibuster and how Republicans in the Senate have used it to block important legislation. “Let the majority prevail,” he said, “and if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
Biden cited such historic figures as Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to clarify the distinctions between those who stood for freedom and those who sought to oppress. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch,” he declared. “I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign, yes, and domestic! And so the question is where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”
On several occasions he made reference to the young people there and how in years to come it will be noted where today’s elected officials stood on the matters of civil rights. Next Monday, on the Dr. King holiday, marks the last chance for rule changes and thus another moment for the senators today to be judged in the future on how they cast their vote.