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Kyrsten Sinema Doesn’t Want Black People to Vote?
Are Manchin and Sinema white supremacists? Or doing the work of white supremacists who finance them? Or just cynically using white supremacy to advance their political goals?
I guess the real question is, “Why?“
Are she and Senator Joe Manchin white supremacists? Or in league with them/working for them? Or two steps removed, working for people willing to cynically exploit white supremacy for their own continued wealth and power?
Is it possible that Amy Siskind is right and Sinema is just so delusional that she plans to use this as the basis of a run for president? Does she really think destroying voting rights will establish her as the new John McCain-style “lovable rogue” candidate?
It’s definitely not about the “sanctity” or “tradition” of the filibuster. Both Sinema and Manchin have voted multiple times to blow that up or get around it when it was convenient for things they cared about, as has pretty much every Republican member of the Senate.
America has, since our founding, always had a strong white supremacist political faction. Usually it’s concentrated in a single political party, but there are often a few white supremacist members who’ve embedded themselves in parties that more generally have embraced pluralism and democracy.
Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are those outliers doing the work of white supremacists or using the political strategy of promoting white supremacy in today’s Democratic Party.
And, like the white supremacists of my youth in the 1950s and 60s, they hide their dirty work with high-sounding phrases like “bipartisanship” and “states’ rights.” Like those white supremacist senators of earlier times — the Strom Thurmonds of the Senate — the weapon they rely on is the filibuster.
But today’s political battle is not about the filibuster; it’s about voting rights. And we have the receipts.
Just one month ago this week, both Sinema and Manchin voted to set aside the filibuster temporarily to raise the debt ceiling so the defense contractors who suck up about half of our annual Pentagon budget could get paid.
Going around the filibuster to help morbidly rich CEOs and wealthy shareholders of companies that make bombs and airplanes is good, they’re telling us; going around the filibuster to help college students and minorities vote, however, is a bridge too far.
As Representative Pramilla Jayapal said yesterday about this voting rights legislation, “Our democracy doesn’t survive without this.”
This stain on our nation, this disgrace of white supremacy and Black voter suppression — and the failure to win the battle to overcome both — have gone on altogether too long. There has literally not been a year, since 1789, without them.
At the founding of our republic, free Black men voted in several northern states; like today, their ability to vote caused an early split in American politics.
For example, free Black men could vote in New York state until the Democratic-Republicans there began to worry out loud that they could lose control of the State Assembly to the Federalists, who were generally the party for which Black men voted.
Their main claim for a need for voter suppression laws was that some of the Black men weren’t “really eligible to vote” but were instead “illegals” — escaped slaves from the South — showing up just to illegally vote for anti-slavery Federalists.
To increase the general hysteria about “voter fraud” and simultaneously tamp down the Black vote, the Democratic-Republicans proposed legislation to throw up even more barriers to voting.
As Leslie M. Harris notes in her brilliant history of that time, The Shadow Of Slavery: African Americans In New York City, 1626-1863:
“Because of the role of the Federalist Party in securing emancipation for New York’s slaves and the Democratic-Republican Party’s ties to the slave south, New York’s blacks largely supported the Federalists. The Democratic-Republican Party in New York City exacerbated this antagonism by focusing on blacks as a key voting bloc that could prevent a Democratic-Republican ascendancy in local and state politics.”
In similar fashion, Republicans in multiple states have been actively working to block the Black vote ever since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, as I document in detail in The Hidden History of the War on Voting.
For example, in future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rhenquist’s 1960s Operation Eagle Eye, he and other Republicans prowled outside polling places in Arizona to threaten and intimidate Black, Hispanic and Native American voters, loudly challenging their right to vote.
More recently, over a dozen Republican-controlled states just expanded this “right to harass” to include allowing armed militia members to “observe” people casting their votes within polling places during the 2022 and 2024 elections.
As Harris notes, this is nothing new:
“Democratic-Republican inspectors at polling booths attempted to dissuade blacks from voting by harassing them for proof of their freedom. In 1811, the Democratic-Republican-dominated New York State legislature made such harassment legal by passing ‘[a]n Act to prevent frauds at election and slaves from voting.’”
It was one of the first voting laws that specifically targeted otherwise voting-eligible African Americans. Under the “Act To Prevent Frauds”:
“Blacks who wished to vote ﬁrst had to obtain proof of their freedom from a ‘supreme court justice, mayor, recorder, or judge of any court of common pleas’ in the state; pay that person to draw up the necessary certificate; and then bring this proof of their freedom to the polls.”
It didn’t work to keep the New York Assembly in Democratic-Republican hands, however, as Harris notes:
“When a close Assembly election in 1813, in the midst of war, was declared in favor of the Federalists, Democratic-Republicans blamed the victory on the three hundred black New York City voters.”
From decades before that moment in 1813 to today, the struggle to establish voting rights for all American citizens has been characterized by acts of great bravery and courage (see: “John Lewis”) as well as great cowardice and moral failure.
Abolitionist Alexander Hamilton openly hoped that members of Congress and future presidents would rise to the solemn work of governing our nation instead of having to “depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes.”
Indeed, Hamilton argued, the spotlight of federal service should weed out the political prostitutes and publicity-hungry political hustlers in favor of a higher quality of person.
“Talents for low intrigue,” he wrote, “and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union…”
Sadly, Hamilton’s idealism isn’t shared today by these two Democratic senators.
That said, it’s critical to remember that their morally corrupt support for voter suppression is shared, so far, by all 50 members of the Republican caucus in the Senate.
And more Republicans than Democrats in that body are up for reelection this November.
Our work to hold the House and expand the Senate’s Democratic majority enough to render these two quislings irrelevant just became a lot more urgent.