On Friday, President Obama appeared at the White House to announce the resignation of Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, Kathleen Sebelius. You’d think healthcare would be on his mind all day. Instead, hours later, he was talking about voting rights at the National Action Network annual conference.
The conference, an event hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton‘s civil rights organization, was certainly an appropriate place to broach the topic. And the way he used his speech to present the topic is actually one that will extend beyond the Sheraton ballroom where he delivered it.
“I thought we settled this 50 years ago,” the President said at one point, making sure to tie the recent efforts to curb the ability to vote to the Republican party.
Opening the discussion by highlighting how rare voter fraud is — 40 voters out of 197 million have been indicted on the charge, he said — President Obama made it an issue that would be close to the hearts of the people in the audience, many of them African American. But on top of that, with so many other issues to tackle during these midterm elections, it raises the broader question of why this should be one of them. Certainly, the Supreme Court’s ruling that gutted the Voting Rights law opened the door to new (and mostly unfair) rules. But President Obama pointed out exactly who was was walking through that door — Republican lawmakers.
“We should not be having an argument about this. What kind of political platform is that?” Obama added.
And in tying the GOP to the wrong side of the voting rights issue, the President made it clear that this isn’t the party that voters should align themselves with.
“The principle of one person, one vote is the single greatest tool we have to undo injustice,” he said. And later he added, “The real voter fraud is the people who try to deny us our rights with bogus arguments.”
And creating an issue where there isn’t one “is “not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness” on the part of the GOP. Indeed, the President painted this as a flat out, wrongheaded political maneuver by Republicans, some of which have “not been shy that they’re doing this for political reasons.”
The Dems can benefit from Obama’s stance as well. “The voting rights argument is a key element of the White House’s strategy to have the president focus on boosting base turnout for the midterms, especially among core Obama voters,” Politico writes.
The right to vote is one that all Americans can get behind and by framing it in this way, the President was clear that Republicans are misguided in their efforts.
[Image by Tonya Garcia]