When Montravias King, a senior at North Carolina's historically black Elizabeth City State University, showed up at a hearing before the Pasquotank County Board of Elections earlier this month to defend his bid for a city council seat, he faced off against Richard "Pete" Gilbert, the local Republican Party chair.
State Sen. Nina Turner said Saturday that she supports efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment but noted that more work is ahead in reaching equality. The Cleveland-based Democrat was one of several political candidates in attendance during an event hosted by the Progressive Democrats of America at the Adena Mansion & Gardens Visitors Center, where Turner gave a fiery speech to a full crowd about the need to support such a change.
At a press conference today, a bipartisan group of legislators – including by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) – will announce the introduction of The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in Congress.
“We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often repeat, that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened,” wrote Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas. “It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted.”
I spent hundreds of hours talking about the law on the radio this year but one question, one exchange, especially sticks out. It was this summer, a few weeks after the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court extinguished the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. The station's host had with him a local lawmaker who supported voter identification efforts underway in her state. "If I need to show identification at a pharmacy to get cold medicine" she asked me on the air, "why shouldn't I have to show identification to vote?"
The U.S. election system is in crisis. Big-money interests dominate U.S. politics in ways unknown in other industrialized countries, with social and environmental progress often blocked by officials who cater to big donors to insure re-election funds. Incumbents are unfairly insulated by district gerrymandering and rules, which obstruct independent candidates and parties. In recent years, voters themselves have faced political and even racial obstacles in casting votes and in getting their votes counted.
How will you honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this April 4, the anniversary of his assassination? How about by demanding that Congress get out of Wall Street’s pocket? How about by letting your representative know that you support economic equality and a just distribution of wealth in America? As Dr. King himself said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”
With Congress about to begin the next cycle of budget battles – mostly focused on how much more pain to inflict on Main Street communities across America – a far different message is bubbling up across the land.
Simply put, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate hundreds of billions of dollars. That money could provide funding for jobs to kickstart the economy and get America back on its feet. It could help save the social safety net here and around the world. And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.
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