After President Biden, during a CNN town hall Wednesday night, repeated his blatant lie that Republican voting reform bills were “Jim Crow on steroids,” MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday predictably doubled down on the false accusation. In the midst of a panel discussion touting Biden’s dishonest claim, left-wing pundits ranted that GOP election laws in states across the country were indeed like Jim Crow-era racism and a “threat to our democracy.”
“President Biden talking last night during a CNN town hall, criticizing Republican-led attempts to curb voting rights but stopping short of calling for an end to the filibuster,” co-host Willie Geist noted after running a soundbite of Biden telling leftist CNN anchor Don Lemon: “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we’re talking about….I’ve been saying for a long, long time, the abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming.”
Being a professional race-baiter, Sharpton didn’t hesitate to defend Biden’s reckless language: “I think the messaging is really talking about the existential threat that we have to voting. I think it’s right on target….this is a disaster….It is Jim Crow with steroids.”
Minutes later, Sharpton openly spun conspiracy theories about GOP efforts to enact modest voting reforms: “They have a master plan, in my opinion, to really overturn what happened in the voting rights and civil rights movement of the ’60s and to undermine democracy….And we will be in a real intractable position unless we act now with federal law.”
That “federal law” he alluded to would let the federal government take over the administration of elections across the country and help Democrats rig all future voting in their favor. Waldman was equally eager for such legislation:
The news media like to pretend that they’re fact checkers and the arbiters of truth, but when Democrats hurl blatant lies, left-wing outlets like MSNBC rush to promote the deception.
7:45 AM ET
JOE BIDEN: This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we’re talking about. And so it takes – go to your second point. I’ve been saying for a long, long time, the abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming. When I got to the United States Senate, at a time when we had guys like Jim Eastland and Strom Thurmond and Robert F. Bird and a whole range of people who were very, very, very, very, very, very conservative on race to say the least, even then, if you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor. And that’s why Strom, I think, set the record at 24 straight hours or something, don’t hold me to the number. You know, so you had to take – there were significantly fewer filibusters in those days, in the middle of the civil rights movement.
DON LEMON: Let me talk to you about that –
BIDEN: Well, let me finish my answer because I tell you what I’d do. I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor.
WILLIE GEIST: President Biden talking last night during a CNN town hall, criticizing Republican-led attempts to curb voting rights but stopping short of calling for an end to the filibuster. Joining us now, President of Brennan Center for Justice and New York University’s School of Law, Michael Waldman. Also with us, the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation and president of the National Action Network, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Good morning to you both.
Michael, I want to dive into some of these laws. But quickly, Rev, just based on what we heard last night and we’ve heard again and again really from President Biden, he’s calling this – last night he said “Jim Crow on steroids.” The suggestion that it’s worse than Jim Crow. A Jim Crow-style assault on voting rights. That has allowed some Republicans to sort of dismiss out of hand what he’s saying, as if to say, “Please, this is not comparable to the horrors of Jim Crow.” What do you think about the messaging from the White House?
AL SHARPTON: I think the messaging is really talking about the existential threat that we have to voting. I think it’s right on target. When the eight civil rights leaders, including me, of organizations met with him, this is what we said. This is not a problem, this is a disaster. Because you are undermining the right of people to vote in a systemic way all over the country. This is not just a Texas problem or a Florida problem. It’s gone all over the country and the President needs to put the gravity of the situation before the American people. It is Jim Crow with steroids.
GEIST: So, Michael, let’s walk through some of your exclusive new findings about the state of voting rights across the country, a quick run-down. Between January and July, at least 18 states enacted 30 law that restrict access to the vote, among them, limiting the number, location or availability of ballot drop boxes, we saw that in Florida and Georgia, among other states. Several states also expanded the purge of voter lists. And you may have heard about efforts to ban water to voters waiting in line to cast ballots and to impose harsher identification requirements for mail-in voting. So in your assessment of things, Michael, how serious is this problem?
MICHAEL WALDMAN: It is an extraordinarily serious problem. It is a threat to our democracy. And it’s happening all over the country, as has been said. It’s systematic. And these laws, they look neutral on their face, they’re different in different places, they’re all carefully targeted at voters of color, at young voters, at voters that the incumbent politicians don’t like and don’t want to have a voice. And there are more coming. And we can’t look away and just say, “Oh, it’s hard to deal with it, it’s hard to – ” It sounds outlandish to yell the alarm, but it really is a major threat. And President Biden the other day, I was there in Philadelphia when he spoke. He said it’s the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War. Our leaders need to act as if that’s true.
GEIST: So there’s the question of access to voting. That’s what you’re talking about here. There’s also, on the back end, something we’ve been talking about a lot on this show, is who gets to count the votes, who gets to challenge the votes? That, in many ways, is as serious as what’s happening in terms of access.
WALDMAN: That’s right. And that stuff gets slipped into the legislation late at night. That’s what happened in Georgia and it’s what’s happening in Texas, if they ever pass their bills there when they have their special legislative session. What they did in Georgia was give the state legislature the chance to remove county election officials or – remember when the secretary of state of Georgia, when President Trump called him, and he taped the call, and he said, “I want you to find 11,000 votes because that’s what I need.” And he was a Republican, but said no. Well, they took away his power in this legislation. That’s authoritarian in its implications. And again, the only solution is federal action. It’s a great clash between these states rushing forward all over the country, but Congress has the power legally and constitutionally to do something about it. The question is, does it have the political will?
GEIST: And Rev, the secretary of state in Georgia held the line there, Brad Raffensperger held the line. Maybe next time there’s somebody installed there who won’t.
SHARPTON: Absolutely. And that’s why, you know, Martin Luther King III and I have called for this national March in Washington, August 28th. Which is 58 years to the day his father did the “I have a dream” speech, the march on voting rights. Because when you look at the fact this is going to be an ongoing onslaught, which is why you need federal legislation. Because the census that was taken last year now will go into effect. They’re going to use these same state legislative houses that are changing voting laws to gerrymander and bring down the numbers of us in these state legislatures. They have a master plan, in my opinion, to really overturn what happened in the voting rights and civil rights movement of the ’60s and to undermine democracy, because they’re going to use that census data to try and redraw lines, which will draw people out of Congress, which will draw people out of the state legislatures. And we will be in a real intractable position unless we act now with federal law.
JONATHAN LEMIRE [ASSOCIATED PRESS]: So, Rev, Michael just evoked the speech in Philadelphia the President gave, where he said this was the greatest threat to democracy since the Civil War. Yet, during that speech, and I saw you there, we talked afterwards, he didn’t mention the word “filibuster” once. He did last night in support of the talking filibuster, which some think help but perhaps not go far enough. Can any of this be done? Is there any chance for any federal legislation to restore voting rights, to strike down what we’re seeing here, without the filibuster? And if not, why isn’t he doing a full court press to get rid of it?
SHARPTON: We brought that up to him, our position, in our private meeting with him, and as I told you, I talked to him about it in Philadelphia. He says they’re dealing with it. His position is to change the filibuster at this point. I think that Congressman Clyburn’s recommendation that we have a work-around. You can work around the filibuster to do fiscal and financial issues, do a work-around on the constitutional issue of voting. That’s the way we can get around it. Now I’d like to see the filibuster go. But at least do the work-around. And I think that’s what we’re trying to push the Senate to do.
GEIST: Michael, as you know, in a lot of these states controlled by Republicans, these laws will move forward. So, for example, those Texas Democrats said, “Our only recourse is to get the federal government to do something.” What do you see on the federal level as possible right now?
WALDMAN: I think there’s real possibility. Remember, the House of Representatives already has passed HR-1, the For the People Act. When it was brought to the floor of the Senate, it got 50 votes, including Senator Joe Manchin, to begin the debate. He has a version of the bill, it’s not as strong as we would like, but it would be a very strong voting rights bill. The real question is, are we going to be willing to tolerate this assault on voting rights? And as the Reverend said, on August 18th, redistricting starts, meaning the gerrymandering starts. Time is really of the essence.
And they don’t need to eliminate the filibuster to make it possible for voting rights bills to go forward. There are dozens of exceptions to the filibuster, it’s a matter of political will. This legislation is very popular.
And we also, I should remember, the Supreme Court just gravely weakened the Voting Rights Act again just a couple of weeks ago. Congress can fix that as well with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. All of this can happen and there is political support for it, it just is going to be hard. And we need our leaders, including President Biden and the others, to really step up.
GEIST: The John Lewis legislation may have more support than does the larger one. Fascinating, we’ll stay on this. Michael Waldman, president of Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, thank you very much. Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you, always good to see you as well. Mika?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Alright, great conversation.