Updated: Sep 22
Author: Dr. RL Booker
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In his final year in office, 2016, Democratic President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States to replace Chief Justice Antonin Scalia. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who was the majority leader in the Senate didn’t even give people time to mourn Chief Justice Scalia’s death before he made a political announcement. On the day of Chief Justice Scalia’s death, Senator McConnell stated, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” The majority of his Republican senate colleagues agreed and Merrick Garland was not confirmed. 2020 continues to unravel from the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice demonstrations, an unemployment rate that is double what it was in March, and now the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On the day of her death, Senator Mitch McConnell, who is still the majority leader in the Senate stated, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Former US Senator Claire McCaskill (2020) stated, "The American people respect fairness and everyone knows what Mitch McConnell did in 2016 and they will be reminded of it over and over again." What Mitch McConnell is telling the American public is that when a democratic president nominated a Supreme Court Justice 269 days before the presidential election in 2016, it was ok for the Republican-controlled Senate to defy the nomination because "the American people should have a say". Nonetheless, when a Republican President nominates a Supreme Court Justice just 46 days before the 2020 election it is now ok for the Republican-controlled Senate to hold a confirmation hearing. Such obvious hypocrisy runs counter to American democracy. James Baldwin put it best when he stated:
One has been betrayed by the American politicians for so long and I am a grown man and perhaps, I can be reasoned with, I certainly hope I can be. But I don’t know and neither does Martin Luther King. None of us know how to deal with those other people whom (politicians) have so longly ignored who don’t believe anything that (politicians) say and don’t entirely believe anything that I or Martin is saying, and one can't blame them. (Baldwin, 2012, 35:01)
Despite the continued hypocrisy from elected officials and lack of value that they place on the Black vote, Black people still press their way to the polls in large numbers. In the past three presidential elections, Blacks have voted at a higher rate than any other non-White group, and in 2012, the Black voter turnout was the highest of any race at 66.6% and then dropped to 59.6% in 2016 (Ray & Whitlock, 2020). The shadiness that Senator McConnell has thrown to the American people is a prime example of why so many Black folk whom I know do not choose to engage in the political process or engage at a very sparingly rate. First, they do not see significant representation in our national government. Since the Senate first convened in 1789, there have only been 10 Black senators out of 2000, which is a warping .005%. Today, there are only two Black Senators out of one hundred, which is 2% (United States Senate, 2020). Secondly, they do not see how voting in local, state, or federal elections actually benefit them. This is understandable because out of the 244 years of our nation’s existence, Black people have only had the right to vote for 52 years even though we have been on American soil for 401 years. Lastly and most importantly, they consistently face voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering (manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency in order to favor one party or class). Today, 36 states have laws requiring voter ID, and 29 states are gerrymandered. These are considered voter suppression tactics. Our Congress and federal administration would look much different if there were no voter suppression tactics such as voter ID laws, lack of language access, voter roll purges, polling places closures/consolidations, lack of funding for elections, provisional ballot requirements, reduced early voting, mail-in voting attacks, and much more (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2020).
Suppression of the Black vote in America is an entire history lesson in itself. In 2013, just 45 years after the inception of the Voting Rights Act, which gave Blacks the right to vote, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote basically invalidated key parts of it. The majority conservative court was basically saying that although there had been 349 years of legal discrimination and domestic terrorism against Blacks, the court felt that these wrongs had been righted for the better in just 45 years. 2020 is now showing us that the justices were not only wrong but ignored national data and the lived experiences of Black folk. They only accounted for overt discrimination and racism but failed to acknowledge that there is a significant amount of implicit systemic and systematic racism in our laws, policies, processes, and procedures.
To All Americans, YOUR VOTE MATTERS. As Dr. Greg Carr, Chair of African American Studies at Howard University, stated, “politics is only a proxy for power and behind politics is economics.” Whether you want to engage in politics or not, it will affect you in some way or another. So, it's important to exercise your civil liberties in order to have a say. The 2020 election is much more than a one-issue election. This election will most likely determine whether or not the democracy that the founders aspired for us all will persist or turn into an authoritarian nation where politicians openly lie, defy all morals, and face no ramifications for their actions. There are also massive implications on women's rights and their ability to make decisions for their own health and well-being. Whether you agree with this point or not, it is important to note that there is not one federal law that governs what a man can or cannot do with his body. Every person should have the right to make their own decisions about their health.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg once stated that we should, "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you"(Vagianos, 2015). I hope that my writings about social injustice, human rights, women's rights, equality, diversity, equity, and inclusion have or will move you in some way to join me in this quest for humanity. Mitch McConnell and those who support his hypocrisy have taken the gloves off on American democracy. We must all understand that his actions and the outcome of this election will not only affect us, but it will also affect the generations to come. It is time for us all to stand in solidarity and hold America accountable to the unfulfilled democratic promises. YOUR VOTE MATTERS!
To Check Your Voter Registration Status, Please Visit: https://www.vote.org/
Baldwin, J. (2012, October 27). James Baldwin debates William F. Buckley (1965). [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/oFeoS41xe7w?t=2101
Carnegie Corporation of New York. (2020, September 18). 11 barriers to voting. https://www.carnegie.org/topics/topic-articles/voting-rights/11-barriers-voting/?gclid=CjwKCAjw2Jb7BRBHEiwAXTR4jaslV9HNQ2rVRTiPGmHDnxZowLiAd3D7yE4n_rN1wahQR8PSNksBCxoCFrIQAvD_BwE
Everett, B., & Thrush, G. (2016, February 13). McConnell throws down the gauntlet: No Scalia replacement under Obama. Politico. https://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/mitch-mcconnell-antonin-scalia-supreme-court-nomination-219248
McCaskill, C. (2020, September 18). McCaskill: The American people respect fairness | The 11th Hour | MSNBC. [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/TfrzrVjq9lo
Ray, R., & Whitlock, M. (2019, September 12). Setting the record straight on the black voter turnout. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/how-we-rise/2019/09/12/setting-the-record-straight-on-black-voter-turnout/
United States Senate. (2020, September 18). Senators. U.S. Senate. https://www.senate.gov/history/senators.htm#:~:text=Since%20it%20first%20convened%20in,in%20the%20United%20States%20Senate
Vagianos, A. (2015, June 02). Ruth Bader Ginsburg tells young women: Fight for the things you care about. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ruth-bader-ginsburg-fight-for-the-things-you-care-about_n_7492630