The Third Reconstruction

fighting voter suppression

third reconstructionThe U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week to further declaw the Voting Rights Act I found to be a kick in the gut. SCOTUS, by a 6-3 vote, overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. It had found that two voting laws passed in Arizona “had both the effect and intent of discriminating against Black, Latino and Native American voters… The decision… will make it much harder to block other laws that have a discriminatory effect on voters of color.”

We’ve already seen a plethora of “voter suppression laws that hide their racist intent but have clearly disparate effects based on race.”

The “ruling significantly increased the level of discriminatory and burdensome effects that plaintiffs must demonstrate for a voting law or procedure to violate the Voting Rights Act, giving lawmakers or officials who enact such rules great deference in the interest of preventing supposed fraud—even without any evidence of such fraud…

“Some legal observers had warned before this latest decision, known as Brnovich v. DNC, that… the Supreme Court could make it so difficult to comply with the requirements to prove discrimination that the VRA would nevertheless become meaningless. That is, in essence, what happened.

With Congress so closely divided, it’s difficult to imagine it passing what is needed. That would be passing a new Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act, which would, among other things, expand voting protections.

July 4th Oration

I was thinking about this as I listened to Rev. Roxanne Booth at The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence in Albany on Saturday, July 3. In person! after being virtual last year.

She spoke about The Third Reconstruction, as laid out by the book by The Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Beacon, 2016). The subtitle is How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.

You know about the first, after the Civil War, until it was undercut by forces, starting with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. The second was the Civil Rights Era, starting with Brown v. Board of Education and the death of Emmett Till, undermined by the policies of Nixon, then Reagan.

The third, the authors argue, started with the election of Barack Obama, and was almost immediately sabotaged by forces that early on wanted him to be a one-term president.

Moral revival

The book is “Rev. Barber’s call for building and sustaining a movement for justice for all people.” From this Unitarian Universalist site: “The Third Reconstruction offers helpful, practical guidance for engaging with justice movements born in response to local experiences of larger injustices.

“Drawing on the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, while making room for other sources of truth, the book challenges us to ground our justice work in moral dissent, even when there is no reasonable expectation of political success, and to do the hard work of coalition-building in a society that is fractured and polarized.”

So when I asked Rev. Booth about how one gets over the disappointment of the Arizona decision, she noted that we have to keep doing the work of social justice, even when the short-term prospects may be bleak.

I’m reminded that many changes in our democracy have started with situations that seemed hopeless in the beginning. Consider joining the Third Reconstruction, a “revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation.”