By Askia Muhammad
WASHINGTON—Pure bedlam rules in the councils of U.S. power after two years of the Donald J. Trump presidency along with Republican control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Mr. Trump may have suffered the worst of it.
He’s insisting on shutting down the government if GOP majorities in the House and Senate do not fund his southern border wall.
His cabinet has been decimated with departures—Defense Secretary, Chief of Staff, Attorney General, Interior Secretary. White House personnel have been coming and going around the West Wing as if it had a revolving door, and there are reports that many qualified candidates have declined offers to serve this president as replacements.
Despite widespread voter suppression efforts, the Trump Republican Party—now referred to by some observers as a Neo Confederate Party—suffered a repudiating defeat at the polls in November, receiving 3 million fewer votes than Democratic candidates, and losing 40 seats in the process, giving Democrats the House majority again.
In Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, among other places, Republicans voter suppression was widespread and they outright stole elections from Blacks and maneuvered the rules to cripple winning Democrats when they lost.
“For sure the losses of the governorships in Florida and Georgia, which many people invested lots of time, lots of energy” were big losses Dr. Clarence Lusane, chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University told
The Final Call. “Those were devastating because in all fairness, in both of those instances, the Black candidate, should have won, (Stacey) Abrams and Andrew Gillum respectfully, in Georgia and in Florida.”
Despite the disappointment that came with emotional losses by Black candidates in the 2018
election cycle, there appears to be a strong will in many quarters for Black activists and experts to stay involved in electoral politics and to correct the inequities Whites have tried to build into the system to permanently disadvantage Black folks.
“And even when they’ve lost, it’s what happened in Michigan and in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Republicans have, going out the door, done everything they could to continue their harmful policies,” Dr. Lusane continued. “It has been a wrenching two years. But again, I think that the 2018 midterms demonstrated that people will not just sit on their hands but actually get out and be active.” Voter suppression was real and widespread. Even successful ballot initiatives were overturned by elected officials when they didn’t like the Election Day outcome, and schemes to block Black voters were common. As Blacks and other formerly disenfranchised people became more politically sophisticated, Republicans— concerned that they could no longer win free and fair elections—
began to cheat.
“(Republican legislatures) passed laws that made it so difficult to prove your identification. They passed laws cutting back on early voting. They passed laws restricting, you know, whether students could vote where they go to college and all of those restrictions, shape our democracy in a very detrimental way, especially to communities of color,” Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy and government affairs for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told this writer. “So that restoration to the Voting Rights Act will be an absolute top priority of the Leadership Conference in the broad civil rights coalition that we represent.”
“I think it’s a real slap in the face to the voters,” Elena Nuñez, director of State Operations and Ballot Measures Strategies at Common Cause, told this writer in an interview for “Monday Morning QB,” heard on WPFW- FM radio about the practice of nullification of voter initiatives by legislatures.
“Because again, voters used the ballot measure process to take action when their legislators will not, and so we see ballot measures as a way for the people to advance policies and ideas that aren’t being addressed, and for their elected officials to then turn around and disregard that or undermine it really sends a powerful signal that they don’t care what their voters are saying and they’re doing it because they think they can get away with it,” Ms. Nuñez continued.
What politicians from the president on down have fomented, is a hostile public discourse. “Oh, no doubt about it, Trump has been one of the worst presidents, for African Americans,” said Dr. Lusane. “He lies consistently. So if there was anybody unsure about what Trump’s agenda would be and how it would impact on African Americans, they’ll probably have to look at the last two years.
“It’s pretty clear that there are setbacks, but it’s not just Trump, it’s the Republican Party writ large that at the national level in Congress, but at the state level, what we’ve seen in Michigan and other states, where there have just been wholesale attacks on people’s voting rights on workers’ rights, on
the environment, on education, pretty much across the board,” Dr. Lusane continued.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone’s against hate,” said Ms. Lucius. “Unfortunately, I think some people are running and many elected officials are fomenting hate and divisiveness in our communities.
“Certainly the president has done his share of fomenting hate when it comes to offering comfort to White supremacists marching in Charlottesville, but also in scapegoating immigrant populations and individuals who are different.
“Although hate crime sounds like something that should be easy enough to do, what we need in the hate crime space is frankly elected leaders and people with great position the power to stop scapegoating marginalized communities.”
There are some hopeful signs and positive goals, Ms. Lucius continued. “One thing that the incoming House can do in this space, even though House of Representatives doesn’t have a vote in the confirmation process, they can really do a huge service to shine a light on the extreme record of these nominees.”
“But we should also keep in mind the victories that happened around the country, from the Muslim sisters who were elected to the Black women who ran for the first time in a number of states who were elected. And now we have a Congressional Black Caucus that will be over 50 people,” Dr. Lusane pointed out.
“And with the Democrats taking control of Congress, it also means that you will have African American members who will be chairing critical committees. That will be important that the Black community take the energy that was put into the 2018 midterm elections. There was a tremendous amount of that now focused on holding accountable the people who were elected to represent the Black community and other communities both in Congress but also state and local levels.
“So I am hopeful that there is a growing, progressive, energetic, a Black movement that will hold policymakers accountable and then we can begin to push back on some of the setbacks that we’ve had in the last number of years,” Dr. Lusane said.
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