Black Voters Matter Co-Founder: 'We Don't Need Another Speech From the President'

By Susan Jones | January 11, 2022 | 8:35am EST
Georgia voting law moves to the forefront today. (Photo by VIRGINIE KIPPELEN-AFP/via Getty Images)
Georgia voting law moves to the forefront today. (Photo by VIRGINIE KIPPELEN-AFP/via Getty Images)

( - Stacy Abrams and other black voting rights activists will not appear with President Biden when he plugs federal voting legislation in Georgia later today.

"We'd rather that the president stayed in D.C. and perhaps delivered this speech to the Senate, to the Democratic Caucus," Cliff Albright, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told CNN Tuesday morning.

They meet every Tuesday morning. He could have gone there and delivered the speech. Because at this point, what we're saying is, we don't need another speech from the president. He gave a very passionate speech, not only the one that he gave for the commemoration last week of January 6th, but, remember, he gave a very passionate speech back in Philadelphia, back in July. But then literally for seven months, we heard nothing else about voting rights from him. And so now is not the time for another speech.

And to be clear, we believe in using the presidency as a bully pulpit. We would have loved that the president use the presidency as a bully pulpit for the past seven, eight months while we've been fighting for voting rights, even getting arrested outside of the White House, begging him to do so. But at this point, we don't need another speech. We don't need him to come to Georgia and use us as a prop.

What we need is work. And we're out working, too, because there are attacks going on against Georgia voters and Georgia organizations happening right now.

Host John Berman asked Albright, "What more can he (Biden) do?"

"Well, a couple things he could do," Albright replied:

One is that we need him not only to give that speech and to talk about the filibuster and to give a clear plan. It's one thing for you to say I'm open to filibuster changes, right? That's what he's said up until now.

He has not given a full-throated call for them to modify the filibuster. He's not yet done what he did for infrastructure, when he went to Congress and met with the members of the House. And he didn't go to those members and say, you know what, I'm open to infrastructure. You know, if infrastructure is necessary, I can go along with that. What he said was, pass this bill and pass it now.

He's not done that in regards to voting rights. He's not gone to Congress, the Democratic Caucus, and delivered that speech. And he's not told them what he wants them to do. His good friend, Joe Manchin -- say, 'Joe, I want you to modify the filibuster, I want you to do it now.' Here's one method, because there are different scenarios on how to do that. People like Manchin and Sinema need to hear from the president, what exactly it is he wants them to do. We know that the president doesn't have a vote on it, but doggone it. That's why President Lyndon Johnson once said, what is the sense of having the presidency?

So what he can do is be specific, he can be strong and unequivocal in this speech...And then, most importantly, he can follow it up. He can't give a speech like he did in Philadelphia and then leave it to the side.

If he's saying the next seven days is going to be historic and critical, he's got to fully lean in after he gives the speech, having the kinds of meetings, finding out from Manchin what exactly it's going to take, and being very direct and forceful, just as forceful as he's been on infrastructure and on some other issues.

We're not asking him to do things not just that other presidents have done. We're asking him to do the things, actions, that he's even done on other things like infrastructure. There's no sense in having 40 years of Senate experience only to tell us that you can't whip two votes.

"Sounds like you're disappointed in President Biden," Berman said.

"I mean, to be honest, and especially on this issue, and some other issues -- you know, we're not even having the conversation about police reform anymore, even though we had historic summer -- year of protests," Albright said. "So there's some other issues, but particularly when we're talking about voting rights, yes, we're disappointed.

We did a whole summer and fall of protests outside the white house to get him to do more. And We want to be clear, the source of the problem is not Joe Biden. Truth be told, it is not even Manchin and Sinema.

The source of the problem are the Republicans that are attacking our rights on a daily basis, including in the State of Georgia, where not only did they pass a voter suppression last year, not only did they gerrymander the maps last fall, but even right now, they're about to go into a new session where they're going to try to attack voting rights even further. That's the source of the problem. What we're disappointed in is the president that we put in power with the elections last year in the midst of a pandemic.

Berman noted that Sttacey Abrams cited a scheduling conflict as her reason for not appearing with President BIden when he addresses her signature issue -- voting rights.

"Is it really a scheduling conflict?" Berman asked.

"You'd have to talk to soon-to-be governor Abrams to find out," Albright replied. "I mean, she put out a statement saying it was scheduling, so I'm going to take her at her word."

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