Why Marc Morial is ‘damn worried’ about the state of American democracy

The new infrastructure law and the larger budget reconciliation bill that are part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda have pushed the issue of voting rights out of the spotlight.

This comes after the Senate blocked debate on a bill named after the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that have been struck down by the Supreme Court since 2013. Vice President Kamala Harris recently called the right to vote the cornerstone of our democracy. As states across the country enact restrictive voting laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has insisted that voting rights legislation is a priority, even if it means eliminating the filibuster. But it’s unclear whether there’s enough support for taking that step.

Now, civil rights groups have issued a scorecard that rates every senator on their records on voting rights and their willingness to end the filibuster.

One of the organizations behind the move is the National Urban League. CEO Marc Morial recently joined the Equal Time podcast to offer his take on voting rights, democracy and even infrastructure.

A transcript, edited for clarity and brevity:

‘What has come of America?’

Civil rights leader and National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial says he is “damn worried” about the state of American democracy. Mary C. Curtis sits down with Morial to talk about voting rights, infrastructure, the filibuster and so much more.

Will those who yell the loudest teach kids how the world really works?

We teach our children lessons about leading with empathy and intelligence, about taking the high road, about playing fair. And we warn them that bullies never win in the end. Be the bigger person. Follow the right and righteous path, and you shall be rewarded.

But the examples being set on very public stages tell an entirely different story, one that says accumulating power is the goal, with no guardrails on how you acquire and keep it. Rules are for suckers, unless you’re the one who makes them.

Take voting rights. If the goal of our democracy is to let all eligible Americans vote and for every one of those votes to count, the Freedom to Vote Act would have had a clear glide path to passage. But when, as promised by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the compromise bill massaged by holdout West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was brought to the floor Wednesday, not for a vote but for a mere discussion, Republicans offered no help.

How far Democrats will go to pass rules that creep toward restoring parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, obliterated by the Supreme Court, is uncertain. But for anyone interested in a true representative form of government in the United States, something is needed.

Local News Roundup: Charlotte’s Redistricting Maps Unveiled; COVID-19 Update; Streetcar’s Low Ridership

Charlotte’s redistricting process progresses this week as City Council’s committee on redistricting releases three possible maps for public review. We’ll talk about what the maps look like and what council members said.

North Carolina, as a state, is also preparing for redistricting. We’ll hear what people had to say at a recent public meeting on the topic.

After Latta Plantation closed earlier this year following concerns about an event planned around the Juneteenth holiday, the county is discussing the future of the historic site. We’ll talk about the group that has been assembled to figure it out.

This week, 375 employees from Novant Health were suspended for not following the company’s COVID-19 vaccine policy. We’ll talk about what will happen to those workers and give an overall update on the virus, the vaccine and compliance in our region.

Charlotte’s new, free streetcar’s ridership is low, so will they start charging people to ride? The city holds a public hearing to get consensus.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top news on the Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup.

GUESTS:

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, and host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter

Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter

‘It’s always urgent when it’s about vote, voice and power’

Climate change, a major concern of this week’s United Nations General Assembly, affects people across the globe through immigration, food production and the economy, to name a few. But as Ashley K. Shelton tells Mary C. Curtis, climate change is also spurring voter suppression. Shelton, who leads the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and is a founding member of the Black Southern Women’s Collective, is turning her attention to policies that need to be in place to ensure that Americans disproportionately affected by devastating weather events can fully participate in democracy.

Reporters’ Roundtable

We’re at the Reporters’ Roundtable with a look at the top stories of the week.  As always… there’s a lot to talk about.  Hurricane Ida, back to school in the DMV, recapping the March On Washington, and gun violence in our communities.  We start with the end of the war in Afghanistan.

Voting Rights, Student Loans, and FDA Approved COVID Vax

Panelists Mary C. Curtis, Jessica Holmes, and Dawn Blagrove weigh in on the recent rule of NC judges to eliminate the waiting period and give formerly convicted individuals the right to vote, effective immediately, and the impact of Biden’s moves to reduce student debt. Dr. C. Nicole Swiner offers her take on the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, booster shots, and family politics of COVID.

MLK III: ‘Listen with your ears, hear with your heart’

Martin Luther King III joins Equal Time to talk with Mary C. Curtis about his father’s “I have a dream” speech, voting rights today and personal memories of his father. Fifty-eight years after his father’s iconic words, MLK III joins John Lewis’ family and others to galvanize the nation to, once again, ensure voting rights for all Americans.

Clyburn: Pass voting bills or Democrats will lose majorities

As a young civil rights activist, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn was involved in protests that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act. Now, the 81-year-old Democrat from South Carolina, whose endorsement is widely credited with helping Joe Biden turn around his bid for the 2020 presidential nomination, says Congress needs to act to stop a new assault on voting.

The House has passed one sweeping bill — dubbed HR 1, or the For the People Act — that sets standards for voting and overhauls campaign finance and ethics law. But an attempt to bring it up was defeated in the Senate. Another measure — dubbed HR 4, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — is being drafted in the House and getting attention in the Senate. Clyburn joined CQ Roll Call’s Equal Time podcast last month to discuss what’s at stake and how he expects it to play out. An edited transcript:

‘This is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy,’ Clyburn says on voting rights

Voter nullification, authoritarianism and the end of democracy — that’s what Rep. James E. Clyburn says are the very real consequences of not passing legislation to protect voting rights. The South Carolina Democrat emphasized that voter suppression is not just an issue of access to the ballot box, but includes who gets to overturn elections.

“I want you to call it what it is. Use the word. Nullification,” said Clyburn“It is voter nullification.”

There are currently two bills on the issue, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, before Congress. Senate Democrats are meeting to hash out a revised bill that could be released next week.

Mary C. Curtis sits down with the House majority whip to discuss voting rights, and to understand what are the very high stakes and what can be done with dwindling time on the clock.