Tag Archives: voting rights

Let’s call him ‘Mealy-mouth Mitch’

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mitch McConnell has more than just two sides of his mouth through which he utters nonsense that contradicts earlier statements.

The Senate Republican leader once hailed voting rights legislation as quintessentially American. He led a bipartisan effort in 2006 to approve an extension of the Voting Rights Act that passed the Senate in a 98-0 vote.

President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed it into law with McConnell standing there applauding along with the rest of the Senate … and the nation.

These days? It’s a different tune that McConnell is humming. The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill under consideration is a non-starter for Mitch and his GOP caucus. They don’t want to guarantee all Americans easy access to voting. McConnell is now the leading obstructionist who seeks to block this bill from becoming law.

He is fighting efforts to amend the filibuster rule that would “carve out” voting rights from the rule that enables a minority of senators to block legislation. Voting rights needs to pass with a simple majority, say proponents of the change. That includes President Biden.

McConnell, though, seemingly forgets his earlier position. His previous stance was the noble one. His current view is despicable.


Compromise fuels good government

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The older I get the more I believe in compromise and the less weight I place on the value of long-standing ideology.

Which is my way of suggesting that the haggling that’s occurring over (a) voting rights legislation and (b) infrastructure legislation is a sign of good government trying to find its way into law.

Congress is wrestling with itself over both of those notions. Republicans seem wedded to the “just say ‘no'” theory of government. Anything that comes from the Democratic president, Joseph R. Biden, is deemed DOA the moment it leaves his mouth.

Biden has long prided himself on being able to work with the GOP. He did so with great effect while serving for 36 years as a U.S. senator and then as eight years as vice president. Now, though, he is deemed the enemy of the GOP, even among his once-good friends … such as Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Oh well.

He threw a $2.25 trillion infrastructure package at the GOP. He apparently is willing to settle for a lot less than that. Still, most of the Rs ain’t budging. At least not yet.

As for voting rights, the GOP now has taken up the “states’ rights” mantra, contending that the feds shouldn’t interfere with states’ ability to write their own voting rules. Except that the Republican-led states, such as Texas, are seeking to disenfranchise millions of Americans who, as luck would have it, happen to vote mostly Democrat when they get the chance.

The GOP’s other mantra? Voter security, as if there was a huge breach in that security in the 2020 presidential election. Spoiler alert: There wasn’t any such breach!

But the two sides are slogging through an effort to find some level of compromise.

I am a good-government progressive. I am not wedded so much these days to ideology as I am to seeing government work. I want my federal government to work, to serve me and my family; we are paying the freight, along with you.

Stay busy, ladies and gentlemen who serve in government. We demand you find a way to compromise. Or else!

AG to fight for voter rights … imagine that!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Merrick Garland’s pronouncements in favor of all Americans’ right to vote was at the same time both expected and refreshing.

The U.S. attorney general said he would beef up the Justice Department’s civil  rights division legal staff to ensure that all Americans who want to vote are allowed to do so. Is that a monumental policy shift? Does such a commitment constitute a break from the norm at DOJ? Of course not!

Garland spoke to the nation just the other day and declared that DOJ would examine whether states’ efforts to toughen voting laws infringes on Americans’ civil liberties or their rights to vote in light of the Voting and Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965.

This might seem like a no-brainer, given that the attorney general takes an oath to do what Garland has proposed doing: protecting our rights.

Except that we didn’t hear that kind of rhetoric from his immediate predecessors, former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr, both of whom are on a different kind of hot seat at the moment.

Those gentlemen were virtually silent on the issue of protecting voters’ rights while they served during the previous president’s administration.

So it is with relief that we hear Attorney General Garland pronounce in clear and unambiguous language his intention to ensure that the act he calls a fundamental right of citizenship — voting — is available to every American who desires to have his or her voice  heard in this democratic process.

AG Garland makes critical vow

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Attorney General Merrick Garland has given good-government adherents something to cheer.

He spoke at length today vowing to do all he can to protect the rights of all Americans to vote, to take part in the democratic process. Moreover, he pledged to dramatically increase the civil-rights division staff of lawyers to guard against efforts to disenfranchise American voters.

“There are plenty of things up for debate in America, but the right of all eligible Americans to vote is not one of them,” Garland said.

Do ya think?

Garland appeared today to draw a bead on Republican-led efforts in  legislatures across the land — and that certainly includes Texas — to make voting a good bit more arduous for many Americans than it ever should be. As NBC News reported: The staffing surge would occur over the next the next 30 days, he said, and the beefed-up unit will use all laws at its disposal “to ensure that we protect every qualified American seeking to participate in our democracy.”

Garland says Justice Department will scrutinize new GOP-led voting restrictions (nbcnews.com)

Merrick Garland came to the Justice Department after a stellar career as a federal judge. He knows the Constitution and has spent a good bit of his professional life interpreting what issues pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, he asserted today that the DOJ will investigate effort whether statewide efforts cross a constitutional line they shouldn’t cross.

The 2020 election had many important features. One of them was the remarkable spike in the number of ballots that were cast. All told, nearly 160 million Americans voted for president. The most important feature, of course, was that Americans elected Joe Biden as president, who in turn nominated a towering judicial figure — Merrick Garland — to lead the Justice Department.

Today, the nation got a glimpse of the wisdom of President Biden’s choice of the nation’s top legal eagle.

“So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote,” Garland said.

“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act. We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color,” Garland said.

Yes, Mr. Attorney General. You have the floor.

Obama goes political? So what?

Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Right-wing media have been having the time of their lives chastising former President Obama over the nature of his eulogy in memory of the legendary civil rights leader, the late John Lewis.

The 44th president was just too damn political in that moment, they say. To which I respond: Big … deal! So what?

Obama is getting set to join former Vice President Joe Biden in the effort to unseat Donald Trump in November. That has been known for a long time.

So, the former president weighed in during his time saluting John Lewis to remind the nation of the damage being done by the Trump administration to the very institution — voting rights — that Lewis sought to build and strengthen. He pointed out correctly how “those in power at this moment” are seeking to suppress the rights of African-Americans and other minorities. It would have been horrible in the extreme for Obama or any of the other eulogists to ignore that real-time reality.

In fact, though, Obama’s remarks weren’t in any way out of bounds. They sought to honor the legacy that John Lewis left after dying this past week of cancer at the age of 80. Indeed, Lewis shed blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 while marching on behalf of voting rights and human rights.

And while we’re on the subject of political speeches — and please forgive this dose of “what about-ism” — can you imagine Donald Trump eulogizing a politician without tossing out a barrage of political epithets? In an election year, no less?

The right-wing media pundits are entitled to their opinions, for sure. I get that and I honor the U.S.  Constitution that provides them their liberty to speak their mind.

Their right-wingers’ criticism of President Barack H. Obama in this context, however, is off base.

Trump’s absence: the ‘new normal’?

As I have sought to process the day’s big event, the funeral of civil rights hero/icon/legend John Lewis, I pondered the absence of one individual who one could have presumed should have been there.

Donald J. Trump was not in Atlanta today to pay tribute to John Lewis, the former congressman and human rights activist who died at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. Oh, no. Trump was in Washington, tweeting messages seeking to undermine the voting rights gains for which Lewis fought, and bled.

It’s becoming something of a “new normal” in this Age of Trump as president of the United States. He was disinvited to the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain. Trump attended the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, but we didn’t hear a word from him. Now, the Lewis funeral. Trump declared he had no intention of honoring Lewis while he lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

I thought about past funerals of high-profile political figures. I recalled the presence of President Lyndon Johnson at the funeral of a man he hated beyond measure, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. I remembered the funeral of President Richard Nixon and recalled one of the tributes paid to him by President Bill Clinton, who told us that we must not judge his predecessor’s public life by just one episode, but by its entire history. I remember, too, when former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower patched up their bitter differences while attending the funeral of their successor, President John F. Kennedy. The two old war horses realized in that moment that life was too short and too precious for them to continue hating each other.

Donald Trump clearly would not have been welcomed at John Lewis’s funeral. He once chided Lewis for supposedly being “all talk and no action.” Trump ignored the beatings that Lewis endured while seeking to guarantee the rights of black Americans to vote in free and fair elections.

So it fell to three of Trump’s predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to speak of their friend and a man who will be remembered as a legend in his own time … and beyond. 

Donald Trump? He was left to sulk in the background.

Trump admits to preferring ‘Democrat Party’ epithet

Donald J. Trump flew off the rails on one of those impromptu campaign-rally riffs in West Virginia … and proceeded to acknowledge what many of us have known all along.

Republicans like referring to their political foes as members of the “Democrat Party,” even though the party to which they refer is the Democratic Party.

Trump said he likes using the term “Democrat” as an adjective because it grates on Democrats and because their party — according to Trump and other Republicans — isn’t too democratic these days.

It’s an idiotic and feeble attempt to stick it in the eye of those who oppose GOP doctrine and the rants of the Republican (In Name Only) in chief, Donald Trump.

And that brings me to what’s so damn funny about Trump’s association with the once-great Republican Party. He’s the classic RINO, the very personification of the term that hard-core Republicans used to describe the more moderate members of their political party.

Trump had zero political grounding prior to announcing his candidacy for the presidency. He wasn’t involved in partisan politics. His entire adult life was dedicated to one thing only: Trump’s personal enrichment.

So now that he has hijacked the Republican Party, he claims to be a political purist, the standard-bearer of a party that once stood for inclusion and that once joined hands with a Democratic president — Lyndon Baines Johnson — in advancing the cause of civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans.

Listening to Trump proclaim his desire to refer to those on the other side of the aisle as belonging to the “Democrat Party” tells me only one thing: He is pandering to that shrinking, but still vocal, political base that hangs on this carnival barker’s every word.

What would MLK Jr. think?

The hour is late on this day of national remembrance.

The nation has recognized the 89th birthday of one of the 20th century’s greatest men. Martin Luther King Jr. left a gigantic legacy that reverberates to this very day, this very moment.

I am left to ponder: What would the great Dr. King think of the national mood today?

Others have spoken to this question already. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of Dr. King’s key lieutenants back in the day, said he believes MLK would be appalled at the national mood. He wouldn’t approve in any sense of the rhetoric coming from the White House these days. Rep. Lewis believes Dr. King would follow the lead of other contemporary African-American leaders and wouldn’t speak openly to the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

I believe differently. Dr. King made a point of speaking of peace with his foes. His non-violent approach to disobedience became a universal mantra for protesting what many Americans believed were injustices being brought on vast segments of our society.

I just cannot believe that King would snub those with whom he had significant differences.

Of course, we cannot know how history would be different if great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. had lived. We play the hand we’re dealt. The hand we got in April 1968 — I cannot quite fathom that it was 50 years ago! — came from a rifle shot in Memphis, Tenn. that felled Dr. King.

He died, but his struggle lived on. It lives on to this very day.

I want to believe we have made great strides toward achieving the kind of world that Dr. King envisioned. Sadly, I hear rhetoric that comes from certain national leaders and I worry we have regressed.

My hope springs eternal. Dr. King’s soaring message still resonates. May it continue to remind us of the hope this American titan sought to imbue on us all.

John Lewis reminded us today that Dr. King knew that “we are one family.” To that end, family members shouldn’t turn their back on each other. That is what I hope — and at some level believe — Martin Luther King Jr. would say.

Ex-felons have rights, too


Some of the talk along the presidential campaign trail has turned to felons.

Do those who have been convicted of felonies deserve the right to vote? Sure they do … under certain conditions.

It’s becoming a bit of a sore point among many who think that felons must not have their rights of citizenship restored. If they’ve done something egregiously wrong, why, let them pay for the rest of their lives. That’s the mantra.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently granted ex-felons the right to vote in that state, much to the consternation of conservatives who argue that, by golly, McAuliffe is a friend and political ally of Democratic nominee-to-be Hillary Rodham Clinton. So, naturally he’d want to grant ex-felons the right to vote.

Former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz of Texas actually said that those who commit crimes are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Let’s not paint with too broad a brush, Sen. Cruz.

Texas — of all places! — allows former felons to vote.

Check this out from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office:


If a felon completes all the terms of his or her release from prison — and that includes fulfilling all the parole requirements — then he or she is eligible to register to vote. The restoration of these rights do not extend to those wanting to run for political office.

Honestly, I fail to see why this is a big deal.

A left-leaning website chides the National Rifle Association for opposing the rights of ex-felons to vote while at the same time pushing for the rights of ex-felons to own firearms.


I won’t wade into that snake pit here. Maybe later.

However, the idea behind incarcerating people convicted of committing serious crimes is to force them to “repay their debt to society.” Once they complete a prison sentence and once they complete the terms of their parole — if they’re let out of The Joint early — then they have paid their debt in full. That’s how the judicial system sees it.

This clearly is a state-by-state issue. It need not enter the federal realm.

I’ve been critical in the past of many Texas laws and those who make them here. On this one, though, the Lone Star State got it right.


Rove calls Holder a 'hack'

That’s the spirit, Karl Rove.

When Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States steps down after nearly six years of service to the country, “Bush’s Brain” Rove calls him a “partisan hack.”


Therein lies a big part of the problem with today’s political debate. You have differences with an administration and then as the nation’s top lawyer steps down you inflame those differences with a statement that is stunning in its lack of self-awareness.

It’s been part and parcel of the right’s reaction to Holder’s impending departure. An editorial in my local newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, spent a good deal of space condemning him for various perceived and alleged errors while on the job. It made no mention of his sincere commitment to voting rights for all Americans.

As for Rove, the godfather of partisan hacks everywhere, it galls me to no end that he would hang that label on someone else.

The big picture at times is just too complete and puts too much context on someone’s public service to suit some of us.