The Other Columbus: Defending democracy means defending the Black vote

The For the People Act is needed to fight ongoing Republican voter suppression efforts

Scott Woods
A voter at the polls in Ohio

In a move surprising exactly zero percent of Americans, Senate Republicans successfully blocked a voting rights bill that would have reformed federal elections, also known as the For the People Act. When you put it like that, it almost sounds like a typical day on the Hill. A more honest assessment would be: “Republicans continue to push for voter suppression.”

The block comes on the heels of various changes Republicans have made to voting laws at the state level, which came on the heels of Trump losing reelection. It is a cascade of dominoes, each action building steam in an attempt to reclaim or maintain a certain kind of power. 

What kind of power? White power, of course.

More:The inevitability and dire consequences of 'Stop the Steal'

Voter suppression, in general, is a great idea for Republicans. Many of them can’t win federal elections without it. But in the specific, it mainly disenfranchises Black voters. Black voters may not be the majority of voters, but enough of us vote that we make the Democratic Party appear relevant and in the game, so it’s not a block you can readily dismiss. Republicans don’t traditionally court our votes, but they don’t like to leave them sitting on the table either. Voter suppression helps chip away at the resource that Black votes provide. You could call the “For the People Act” the “Stop Shafting Black Voters,” but it wouldn’t help matters (and it isn’t because of the word “shafting”).

Now, that’s all basic race-based politics in the 21st century. If you didn’t know this was what was happening by now, you really need to get out more. I mean, I get it. Schools don’t teach about this, so you can be forgiven some degree of naivete. But it was kind of the whole point of the insurrection on January 6, and I know you saw that TV show. Its ratings were through the roof.

Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter

What’s more important now is to see how this move is part of so many other moves currently happening: the various critical race theory amendments; the shift from criticism of policing to criticism of communities and their high crime rates; the general slide of narratives into pre-election mode. Some of it is subtle, but some of the dominoes are the ones that trip the water gun to squirt at the target that drops the mousetrap. 

The thing about dominoes is that it’s really hard to stop them from dropping once they get going. It’s way easier to just switch out the dominoes for a deck of playing cards, or never set the dominoes up at all. Democracy itself is being challenged by a furious campaign of dissent. Now is the time to start vetting candidates across the board, to start building the kind of coalitions that will generate the kind of politicians needed to pass legislation like the For the People Act. 

If you enjoy freedom and liberty, being right isn’t enough. Protecting the Black vote is how you get out from under the Republican domino chain.