Allan J. Lichtman and Ibram X. Kendi are two professors at American University who have careers in race and legal relations. Their experiences were used at the event to talk about voting as a practice and what it means today. In the United States we have less than half of the population showing up to the polls for midterms and presidential elections: we learned there are many reasons for voter turnout. Professor Kendi and Lichtman framed the conversation as, who has the right to vote and who does it benefits from voter suppression.
The conversation between the professors favored a progressive point of view, I cannot help, but think how conservative thinkers would have received this event. We have a two party system were republicans, by far, benefit from restricting voter turnout. Also many republican voters have ideals that suppress other groups, whether they know it or not. The professors mentioned self interest and scientific racism in regards to ineffectiveness of educational persuasion. The conversation the professors fostered left me feeling like if republican voters knew better they would do better; however them doing better might mean voting democrat, and ofcourse democrats are not perfect. Although democratic platforms are more inclusive based on the candidate. Many people are not going to vote in favor of Black, LGBTQ, Native American, and poor folks, when it is not in their best interest regardless of education. Also racism and propaganda plagues white voters throughout America, who are in the majority voting for republican officials. We are not in a post-racial world, and people still hold white supremacist beliefs and that impacts voting. Based on the recent elections incumbents were either catering to Trump supporters for reelection or detaching themselves from trump based on what their constituency wanted. The republican party is only regarded as a negative body, especially in event, because of presidential administrations actions over the past two years and voter suppression tactics.
Republicans have a shrinking base of white old christians voters and democrats have a growing base of everyone else. Republicans need older white voters in order to gain seats in the house, senate, and presidency. When voters are excluded the republican party has disproportionate gains. For example: Mississippi has 40% Black people, but is a red state. This fact insinuates Black people will have the power to turn a state blue. This also brings up the question; If a party has the support of a marginalized group, is that party more supportive and the latter more decisive? Conservative thought, in my opinion, is not what we are always seeing in the Republican party's actions. The political parties are making decisions to keep power and control, and each political figure uses ideologies differently as a means to an end.
Moreover, Kendi expressed, the founders created a democracy that could be contested because there is not a constitutional right to vote. Currently in America, Professor Kendi also expressed, we have voter privileges as opposed to voting rights. Post the 1965 Voting Rights Act, there has been racial progress; however, sophisticated voter suppression techniques have increased. Historically, Black leaders have promoted unity and progression, which has probably provided voter suppression tactics to prevail without effective legal action.
In Barack Obama and Martin Luther King’s speech’s prominent speech’s there is a call for the perfect union and unity. Martin Luther King spent many years advocating for legislation against voting discrimination, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Over the course of his career he would used rhetoric from the Declaration of Independence, most famously noted in the “I have a dream” speech, in order to appeal to a broader audience ideas of equality and democracy. Barack Obama in 2008 gave his “a perfect union” speech, and talks about the declarations promises that needed to be granted to minorities over time. Together as Americans we can make the promises of our founders become a reality for. However, today, equal rights will rid people of their power. The idea of “solve things together” is difficult because in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, “white supremacy does not compromise”. Obama gained his success across by appealing across racial lines in the primaries, so his motivation is coming from successful voting outcomes. I think both leaders make aspirational points, but are not harsh enough about the ideals within the republican party that fosters discrimination across the nation.
We can currently see voter identification laws impacting minorities and the democratic vote in Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and areas with Native American voters. People convicted of a felony can now vote in Florida, which made up 20% of the population. There maybe less swing states because of ex-felon voter suppression. The professors explained, we can look for to a future with equalized differences without assimilation. Also a removal of gerrymandering from the legislature to eliminate corruption. I am looking forward to the rise of a more prominent political party aside from our current ones.