The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey.
(Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, delivered the Weekly Democratic Address. In this week’s address, Pallone highlighted the dangers of Republicans’ latest attack on the protections that ensure more than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.)
“Today, too many Americans are concerned about the costs of their families’ health care.
“The anxiety is justified considering the ongoing efforts by Republicans in Washington to undermine and sabotage the health care system.
“And last week, Republicans directly threatened the health care of millions of Americans when the Trump Administration asked a federal court to strike down key patient protections included in the Affordable Care Act.
“If successful, the Trump Administration’s action will eliminate protections that ensure more than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. It could also eliminate protections that prevent insurance companies from charging women or anyone between the age of 50 and 64 outrageously high premiums because of their age or sex.
Fannie Lou Hamer, American civil rights leader, at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, August 1964
I didn’t watch the Golden Globes on Sunday, but I have watched Oprah’s speech. For me, the line that resonated the most is the sentence used as the title of this post: “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” I was also gratified that Oprah recognized and honored Recy Taylor. Today I’m going to focus on another woman who spoke her truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, but instead of providing a bio and background information, which is readily found on the internet, I’m just going to let her speak.
As Democrats aim to capitalize on this year’s Republican turmoil and start building back their own decimated bench, former Attorney General Eric Holder will chair a new umbrella group focused on redistricting reform — with the aim of taking on the gerrymandering that’s left the party behind in statehouses and made winning a House majority far more difficult.
The new group, called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, was developed in close consultation with the White House. President Barack Obama himself has now identified the group — which will coordinate campaign strategy, direct fundraising, organize ballot initiatives and put together legal challenges to state redistricting maps — as the main focus of his political activity once he leaves office.
“American voters deserve fair maps that represent our diverse communities — and we need a coordinated strategy to make that happen,” Holder said. “This unprecedented new effort will ensure Democrats have a seat at the table to create fairer maps after 2020.”
Obama strongly endorsed Holder’s selection, and is planning more involvement in state races this year. But it’s in his post-presidency that redistricting will be a priority for his fundraising and campaigning.
“Where he will be most politically engaged will be at the state legislative level, with an eye on redistricting after 2020,” said White House political director David Simas, who’s been briefing Obama on the group’s progress since it started coming together at the beginning of the summer.
President Obama spoke to the 2016 graduating class at Howard University on Saturday in what will likely be considered one of his most significant speeches. It was a call to not only the Howard graduates but to all young people in America to embrace these times and work to advance small d democracy.
President Obama on effecting change:
… change requires more than just speaking out — it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise. […]
The point is, you need allies in a democracy. That’s just the way it is. It can be frustrating and it can be slow. But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse. That’s not just true in this country. It’s not a black or white thing. Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.
And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that’s never been the source of our progress. That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress. […]
Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go. Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.
President Obama on voting:
… your plan better include voting — not just some of the time, but all the time. It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote. There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting. This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote. And there’s a reason for that. There’s a legacy to that.
But let me say this: Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world. In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms — the second lowest participation rate on record. Youth turnout — that would be you — was less than 20 percent. Less than 20 percent. Four out of five did not vote. In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out. And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out. You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with? And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done? How come he didn’t get that done? You don’t think that made a difference? What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country? People try to make this political thing really complicated. Like, what kind of reforms do we need? And how do we need to do that? You know what, just vote. It’s math. If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want. (Laughter.) It’s not that complicated.
And you don’t have excuses. You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote. You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot. Other people already did that for you. (Applause.) Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it. What’s your excuse? When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves — right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are — the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.
So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it’s time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired.
Six hundred marchers assembled in Selma on Sunday, March 7, and, led by John Lewis and other SNCC and SCLC activists, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River en route to Montgomery. Just short of the bridge, they found their way blocked by Alabama State troopers and local police who ordered them to turn around. When the protesters refused, the officers shot teargas and waded into the crowd, beating the nonviolent protesters with billy clubs and ultimately hospitalizing over fifty people.
“When I take Malia and Sasha down with Michelle next week, down to Selma, part of what I’m hoping to do is to remind them of their own obligations. Because there are going to be marches for them to march, and struggles for them to fight”
She reminded us of the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose seat in the Senate she now occupies, connecting the Civil Rights movement to electoral politics. April 9, 1964 floor speech in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
“This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.”
Senator Warren spoke about racial justice, economic justice, and voting rights and pointed out that economic justice alone is not enough to make black Americans feel safe in their own country.
Economic justice is not – and has never been – sufficient to ensure racial justice. Owning a home won’t stop someone from burning a cross on the front lawn. Admission to a school won’t prevent a beating on the sidewalk outside. But when Dr. King led hundreds of thousands of people to march on Washington, he talked about an end to violence, access to voting AND economic opportunity. As Dr. King once wrote, “the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice.”
The tools of oppression were woven together, and the civil rights struggle was fought against that oppression wherever it was found – against violence, against the denial of voting rights, and against economic injustice..[…]
In the same way that the tools of oppression were woven together, a package of civil rights laws came together to protect black people from violence, to ensure access to the ballot box, and to build economic opportunity. Or to say it another way, these laws made three powerful declarations: Black lives matter. Black citizens matter. Black families matter.
Fifty years later, we have made real progress toward creating the conditions of freedom-but we have not made ENOUGH progress. […]
Fifty years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.
And what about voting rights? Two years ago, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates ever wider for measures designed to suppress minority voting. Today, the specific tools of oppression have changed-voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and mass disfranchisement through a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates black citizens. The tools have changed, but black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process. […]
Violence. Voting. And what about economic injustice? Research shows that the legal changes in the civil rights era created new employment and housing opportunities. In the 1960s and the 1970s, African-American men and women began to close the wage gap with white workers, giving millions of black families hope that they might build real wealth.
But then, Republicans’ trickle-down economic theory arrived. Just as this country was taking the first steps toward economic justice, the Republicans pushed a theory that meant helping the richest people and the most powerful corporations get richer and more powerful. I’ll just do one statistic on this: From 1980 to 2012, GDP continued to rise, but how much of the income growth went to the 90% of America – everyone outside the top 10% – black, white, Latino? None. Zero. Nothing. 100% of all the new income produced in this country over the past 30 years has gone to the top ten percent.
She concluded her remarks:
The first civil rights battles were hard fought. But they established that Black Lives Matter. That Black Citizens Matter. That Black Families Matter. Half a century later, we have made real progress, but we have not made ENOUGH progress. As Senator Kennedy said in his first floor speech, “This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.” So it comes to us to continue the fight, to make, as John Lewis said, the “necessary trouble” until we can truly say that in America, every citizen enjoys the conditions of freedom.
Racial justice, economic justice, fair and honest elections that include all citizens … goals that align with Democratic Party principles.
Winning elections is how we gain the political power to effect change. Elections matter: in 2016, they will matter more than ever before.
In this week’s address, the President celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by underscoring the importance of one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy – that all of us are created equal and that each of us deserves a voice. The enactment of the Voting Rights Act wasn’t easy – it was the product of sacrifice from countless men and women who risked so much to protect every person’s right to vote. The President reminded us about their struggle and that while our country is a better place because of it, there is still work to be done. He promised to continue to push Congress for new legislation to protect everyone’s right to the polls, and asked that all Americans regardless of party use every opportunity possible to exercise the fundamental right to vote.