He seems to have abandoned “Jim Crow 2.0,” but that was the extent of the nuance in President Joe Biden’s political remarks Sunday in Selma, Alabama. He was there to commemorate the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the 1965 brutality against a civil-rights march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Calling for the freedom to vote, marchers were met by clubs and tear gas.
“The right to vote and to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty,” Biden said. “With it, anything is possible. Without it — without that right, nothing is possible. And this fundamental right remains under assault. The conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states and dozens—dozens of anti-voting laws fueled by the Big Lie, and the election deniers now elected to office.”
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Biden’s implied parallel here is grotesque, and it doesn’t fit the evidence. The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) helped to break Jim Crow. For a generation, it required certain states and localities to get “preclearance” before changing their voting laws. That extraordinary measure was intended to last five years, but Congress eventually extended it to 2031, without updating the 1975 criteria to determine where the preclearance requirement would apply.
This is what the Supreme Court struck down in Shelby County (2013). The VRA’s coverage formula had “no logical relation to the present day,” as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “Data from the most recent election indicate that African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six States originally covered.”
A year after Shelby County, Vice President Biden warned of a “new assault” on the right to vote, saying that laws requiring a photo ID were “an attempt to repress minority voting.” Yet a 2021 academic study of voter ID could find “no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.” As of last year, voter ID was “favored by 77% of people of color,” Gallup says.
Biden also consistently misrepresents the voting laws that states have passed since 2020. In a speech last year in Georgia, this is how the president framed the debate: “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” Yet look at the University of Georgia’s recent survey on the 2022 elections. Asked about their voting experience, 72.6% of black Georgians called it excellent, and 0% said poor. Of white respondents, 72.7% said excellent and 0.9% said poor.
Biden castigates the “Big Lie,” as Democrats have branded President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump’s false theories are well worth criticizing, but so is Biden’s slandering of states such as Georgia, not to mention his suggestion that America is an inch from reverting to 1965. It isn’t true, and his calumny undermines democracy.