Among the top 10 items on my list of Urgent Things to Do, toppling Andrew Jackson’s statue in Lafayette Square is not to be found. Neither is changing the names of military installations named for Confederate generals. Those things can, and will, occur in due course.
My chief interest is the defeat of President Donald Trump, who, among other sins, is keeping the Confederacy’s legacy alive, lauding the most offensive era in our nation’s history as “an American heritage.” Trump insists all memorials must stand and declares he would “not even consider” changing the forts’ names.
Which explains why change at the White House is at the top of my list.
Also, ranked high on my list of urgent needs is the healing of America and getting it back on track — a goal that former President Barack Obama recently said Joe Biden can achieve.
We live in hope.
Clearly, Trump’s open flaunting of COVID-19 public health guidance — behavior in which death could be a consequence — his worsening of race relations and his leadership failures across the board all cry out for his eviction from office. Despite current polls showing sharp declines in Trump’s support, however, driving him out of Washington will be no easy feat. He’s got a base of fervent supporters, a fat campaign kitty and no scruples whatsoever against doing anything demagogic, including wallowing in dirt, to keep his title.
But help is on the way. More about that later.
Speaking this week at a virtual Biden fundraiser, Obama cautioned that this year’s presidential campaign “is serious business.” That warning should be ringing in the ears of Americans who want Trump gone — especially people of color, young people, and poor and low-income people, all of whom are more likely to vote for Democrats.
A large Election Day turnout is all that stands between them and Trump’s continued occupation of the Oval Office for another four years, and it is all that’s needed for moving vans to be lined up to transport the Trump family’s belongings out of town next January.
No group is more aware of the threat posed by that aggregation of voters than Republicans. Without neutralizing their impact at the polls, GOP operatives know Trump’s days in the presidential mansion are numbered.
Thus, in the Republican reelection playbook, it’s voter suppression uber alles.
Obama told supporters at the Biden fundraiser that it’s going to take a lot of work to win in November and whatever had been done so far “is not enough.” Indeed it isn’t.
The eyes of the general public may be on protest demonstrations and expressions of rage, face-downs with police and faceoffs at city hall. But Republican operatives are hard at work developing schemes to intimidate voters, purge vulnerable minority and young voters from the rolls, make voter registration more difficult, create roadblocks to casting a ballot and make cumbersome the task of getting votes counted.
Here’s where the help comes in.
The nonprofit NAACP Legal Defense Fund, with an 80-year history of struggling to secure the voting rights of African Americans, is on to modern-day voter suppression schemes. The LDF has stepped up its game, organizing and getting election preparedness information to groups at state, local and grass-roots levels. LDF workers are being deployed to work on voter protection from now up to Election Day.
And they aren’t alone.
A group of prominent Black athletes and entertainers, led by NBA superstar LeBron James, is devoting their time and treasure to protecting African American and other racial minority voting rights. But this group of trusted talents, operating under the banner “More Than a Vote,” is not just asking individuals to vote. It is promoting civic activism and participation in progressive causes, aimed at helping communities and getting others involved.
These stars’ best contribution may be the use of their well-earned credentials to drive home the point that democracy isn’t a spectator sport; that apathy and inaction enable the destruction of democracy; and that the investment of energy, checkbook activism, phone banking, canvassing, mobilizing and inspiring others are ways to win elections — not only for president but for seats in the Senate, House and state government bodies as well.
Borrowing a phrase, they ask: “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
Of course, there’s plenty of room for rage, and reasons and ways to express it. But the moment to seize is the opportunity at hand. Necessary change can take place in the White House, Congress, governors’ mansions, state legislatures and local governments. The power to make change, as with sweeping away the crusted Confederacy, resides, however, in the vote. That comes first, and it’s on us.
And if we succeed in November, responsibility for healing the country and getting it back on track will also fall on us. The road to reconciliation will not be a one-way street.