Juan Williams: Biden is right — GOP is on wrong side of history

As we begin Black History Month, here is the nub of today’s racial politics in two points.

First, the Republican Party is the white people’s party.

The GOP is 83 percent white, according to Gallup, based on 2021 polls.

{mosads}It is also the party that wins the support of the majority of non-college educated whites (57 percent) and of rural Southerners (60 percent), according to a 2020 Pew Research Center report.

Second, the Democrats are the multiracial party.

Forty-three percent of their voters are Black, Latino or Asian, according to Gallup. Democrats also have majority support among women (56 percent) and white college graduates, according to Pew.

And in stark contrast to those rural, southern Republicans, Democrats have 72 percent support in the big cities of the Northeast, according to Pew.

Those clear, hard racial divisions make it obvious why the GOP has no interest in making it easy for Blacks, Latinos, educated folks and working women in cities and suburbs to vote.

Those people are not their voters.

In fact, to maximize their chances of winning, the GOP has an interest in suppressing their votes.

I’m laying this out because Senate Republicans took offense when President Biden recently called out the racial impact of the GOP’s total opposition to bills to protect voting rights.

Biden said the senators had to decide if they wanted history to mark them as being “on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace…the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Senate Republicans called it an unfair racial attack.

The implication of the president’s remarks was that Senate Republicans held “sinister, even racist inclinations,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

It was a “deliberately divisive” attack on Republicans, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He said Biden’s words were both “incorrect” and “beneath his office” as president.

The one Black member of the Senate GOP, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was indignant. He said any suggestion that Republicans wanted to limit Black voter turnout was a slap at all who remember Black people being lynched for voting and the “millions of Americans who fought, bled and died for the right to vote.”

As the author of several books on civil rights history, I feel compelled to push back.

While today’s Republicans are not resorting to the violent tactics used by white segregationists before passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, they are aiming for the same goal by making it harder for this generation of Black voters to find a polling place.

And, yes, they are limiting early voting.

Yes, they are changing the rules for mail-in voting.

And Republican-majority state legislatures are passing laws that give them the power to go around nonpartisan election officials and make the final decision on which votes to count and who wins.

The most generous interpretation of Senate Republicans’ refusal to protect voting rights against this onslaught is that they are creating the best chance for their party to win future elections.

But it is heartbreaking to see any group of patriotic Americans turn their eyes away from these underhanded attempts to erode the right to vote and to diminish the power of the minority vote. These tactics are a threat to every American’s constitutional right to representative government.

History will condemn today’s Senate Republicans for standing idle while their party colleagues at the state level do the dirty work of tripping up voters of color.

Once upon a time, back in 2006 when white voters made up a bigger share of the electorate, Senate Republicans had less trouble voting to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Sixteen Republicans who are still in the Senate today cast votes for reauthorization at that time, including McConnell.

{mossecondads}But now Senate Republicans act only in service to political power. They remain locked into former President Trump’s fiction about voter fraud as the reason he lost the 2020 election.

It fits with their worry over what happened when Black voters turned out, fraud free, in the 2020 presidential race, tipping swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to Biden. Black voters even gave Biden a win in Georgia.

Republican fears worsened when Black voters in Georgia turned out in large numbers in a run-off election to elect two Democrats to the Senate last January, leaving the Senate in a 50-50 split — and leaving the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Vice President Harris. Again, there was no evidence of fraud.

Now McConnell and Senate Republicans point to such strong Black turnout as proof that there is no need for new federal laws to protect voting rights. McConnell went so low as to say Blacks are “voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

McConnell claimed he had misspoken. But don’t get distracted by his offensive comment — his whole argument is a dodge.

The new laws are being put in place to prevent a repeat of high Black voter turnout in future elections.

There is no escaping the racism involved with a wall of Republican opposition. Every one of the Senate’s 50 Republicans, along with two defectors on the Democrats’ side, stopped consideration of the voting rights bills.

Those senators really did side with George Wallace and Bull Connor.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags Black voters disenfranchisement Donald Trump Election Security Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney racial injustice Tim Scott Voter suppression voting rights

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