Commentary

In Philly, Biden threw down the gauntlet in the battle over voting rights. It’s a fight we can’t shirk | Wednesday Morning Coffee

July 14, 2021 7:10 am

(Capital-Star file)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It was hard to miss the challenge that President Joe Biden posed to Americans as he burned through a fiery speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon.

Led by “bullies and peddlers of lies,” Republicans in Congress and state legislatures around the country are engaged in an historical assault on the right to vote that poses the most serious threat to “the American experiment” since the Civil War.

“Hear me clearly, there is an unfolding assault taking place in America today to subvert the right to vote in free and fair elections. An assault on liberty, an assault on who were are,” Biden said. “Bullies and peddlers of lies are threatening the very foundation of our country … We’re facing the most significant threat to our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War — the Confederates never breached the Capitol as the insurrectionists did on Jan. 6. I’m not saying this to alarm you, I’m saying it because you should be alarmed.”

And in a sentence, Biden nailed it: You should be alarmed. And if you’re not, you’re either not paying attention, or you’ve bought the myth. And both are equally destructive.

Egged on by the Florida retiree who is still actively perpetuating the myth of the stolen election, Republicans at the state and national level have engaged in a wholesale rewriting of the events of Jan. 6.

They’ve downplayed the carnage of that day, and they have worked feverishly to block a badly needed comprehensive inquiry of the worst violence in the nation’s capital since the War of 1812.

At the same time, they’ve conducted a systematic attack on access to the ballot box, passing laws and pushing legislation — including right here in Pennsylvania — that would deny the franchise to millions of Americans — most of them Black and voters of color.

This isn’t academic. It’s not up for debate. Biden’s speech came on the same day that Democrats fled the Texas Capitol to deny Republicans the quorum they needed to push through a voter suppression bill in the Lone Star State.

(YouTube screen capture)

And remember — this can’t be said loudly enough — they’re doing it in response to an absolute fiction, one that was put to rest by dozens of state and federal judges, and the U.S. Supreme Court not once, but twice.

“In America, you lose, you accept the results, you follow the Constitution, you try again,” Biden said, inveighing against his predecessor without ever mentioning him by name. “You don’t call facts ‘fake’ and try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship, that’s selfishness. That’s not democracy, it’s the denial of the right to vote.”

And that is precisely what is unfolding, in real time.

And the challenge that Biden issued, not only to policymakers and activists, but to all Americans is a real one, and the test of our times: To stand against attacks on voting rights and to work together to rebut the culture of untruths that have sprung up around our what’s been billed as the most secure election in history.

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on Tuesday, 7/13/21 (MSNBC Screen Capture)

Biden called for the passage of two sweeping pieces of voting rights legislation that have hit a brick wall in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate. The consequences of failing to do so are high, he warned, adding that the world was watching.

“Time and again, we’ve weathered threats to the right to vote, and each time, we’ve overcome. That’s what we must do today,” Biden said.

He added, according to The Washington Post, “We have to ask, are you on the side of truth or lies, fact or fiction, just a true injustice, democracy or autocracy?” he said. “That’s what it’s coming down to.”

This is the challenge of our times. And we cannot fail to meet it.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
From Correspondent Nick Field and Staff Reporters Stephen Caruso and Marley Parish, here’s our full story on President Joe Biden’s visit to Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania’s once-a-decade redrawing of its congressional and legislative maps is poised to be transparent. But will it be fair? Advocates think yesCaruso also reports.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Fraklinhas doubled down on his push for an audit of Pennsylvania’s election results — and he’s pushing for a meeting with BidenParish also reports.

Ahead of Biden’s Philly speech, anti-poverty advocates urged Congress to act on voting rights, minimum wage, and the filibusterCapital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

A state regulatory board has moved the commonwealth one step closer to joining a regional cap-and-trade program that would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants across Pennsylvania, Cassie Miller reports.

A Black-owned firm and its partner have pledged $1 billion toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: State governments are flush with stimulus cash. Is that a blessing — or a curse? Opinion regular Fletcher McClellan takes up the question. And with its wind and solar potential, Pennsylvania should lead toward a renewable futureFlora Cardoni, of PennEnvironment writes.

Then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr at the Justice Department, discussing the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election (screen capture)

Elsewhere.
Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr says a letter that GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McSwain, a former federal prosecutor, sent to Donald Trump claiming he was blocked from going public about problems with the 2020 election was ‘intentionally deceptive,’ the Inquirer reports.

The Post-Gazette rounds up the rhetoric from Pennsylvania pols in the wake of Joe Biden’s speech.

State officials are considering a new delivery tax to help fund road repairs, PennLive reports. And the Morning Call’s readers aren’t fans of such a levy, the newspaper reports.

Luzerne County Council took its first steps Tuesday toward offering a retroactive tax cut for many property owners, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Despite online options, Pennsylvania private schools saw their enrollment decrease during the pandemicWHYY-FM reports.

WPSU-FM previews Wednesday’s expected vote to merge six Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities into two, regional campuses.

Pennsylvania will repay $14 million in unemployment overchargesUSA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau reports.

Businessman Steve Fanelli has launched a GOP bid for the 6th Congressional District seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chrissy HoulahanPoliticsPA reports.

U.S. Senate Democrats and the White House have agreed to a $3.5 trillion federal budget packageRoll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
9 a.m., Live Stream: Local Government Commission
10 a.m, West Chester, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland, and others on banning critical race theory, which isn’t taught in Pa. schools, from being taught in Pa. schools.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
From English vocalist Florence Rawlings, here’s a bit of sunshine-y electro-pop to get you through your Thursday morning. It’s the aptly titled ‘July.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
Powered by a stellar performance by Anaheim’s Shohei Ohtani, the American League notched its 8th straight MLB All-Star Game win on Tuesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

MORE FROM AUTHOR