Try Harder: Biden Makes His Case For Voting Rights

Try Harder: Biden Makes His Case For Voting Rights

voting rights

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights legislation at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Jan. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

I remember sitting in a meeting many years ago when I was serving in a counselor role for a school. I and a few other staff members were called into a meeting by the principal to discuss how to support students who were “at-risk” for failing for the year. When working for another school as the director of an afterschool program, I was called into a meeting by the principal of that school to do the same thing: discussing how to support “at-risk” students.

Most students referenced as “at-risk” for failure were Black students. Yet there was no discussion about changing the focus of curricula or challenging teachers to change their pedagogical practices. Rather, the purpose of those meetings was to manifest a strategy built from reactionary methods to say that we, the school, tried to save these students from failing.

It wasn’t about supporting Black students, per se, it was about simply documenting our “efforts” so that those principals could say they tried.

After a year of being president, Joe Biden has shifted his attention to voting rights. After Build Back Better suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a member of his own party in the U.S. Senate, President Biden will rely on Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and others to pass voting rights legislation, when the political calculus says that’s unlikely to happen.

But he’s trying, right?

Funny how when it comes to what will impact Black people, like introducing anti-lynching legislation or legislation to prosecute police brutality, it seems like “we tried” is the best people in positions to try something can do. 

So now Joe Biden will make his case to the American people for voting rights, long after he should have done so.

President Biden often highlights how he received the most popular votes for a president in American history. Donald Trump is second on that list and that wasn’t for 2016 either… it was in 2020. Also, elections aren’t decided by the popular vote but by electoral vote and without the ballots of Black people in Milwaukee, Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, Joe Biden wouldn’t be president.

If entering office once elected is about taking care of the constituency of voters who got you there, Black people would be the first group on the list for repayment. I guess ole Joe forgot about that.

Georgia was the first stop on the voting rights tour but both Stacey Abrams and voting rights groups skipped the speech. In fact, Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told President Biden via CNN not to come to Georgia, to give the speech in D.C., and to use his bully pulpit to achieve voting rights the same way he uses it to promote the rest of his agenda.

Activist and artist Bree Newsome Bass shared a tweet saying, “If Democrats are saying they can’t address the Republican assault on free & fair elections, then why is anyone telling folks to vote in the next election when the outcome is predetermined? Voters demanding more from Dems are not the ones dooming us to Trump pt 2, the Dems are.”


My message to the Democratic party is, don’t send Barack Obama on the campaign trail to say “Don’t boo, vote” after you’ve failed to achieve voting rights legislation so that Black people, and all people, can vote in elections — elections you cannot win without us. Try harder or else when you ask us what happened after your concession speeches, all we can tell you is that “we tried.”

Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks in support of changing Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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