In an effort to bring national attention to "homegrown voter suppression" and to launch a campaign of "moral resistance" against Republican attempts to strip healthcare from millions, Rev. William J. Barber and other faith leaders marched in Washington on Friday just ahead of the anniversary of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Writing for NBC News prior to the march, Barber—a member of the NAACP national board of directors and a key figure in the successful effort to overturn North Carolina's racially gerrymandered districts—argued that absent deliberate efforts by Republican lawmakers to prevent minorities from voting, a Donald Trump victory "would have never been possible."
If Trump operatives colluded with Russian agents to hack the 2016 election, they did not do so because their opposition was weak, but because they knew the majority of Americans opposed their policies.
The same is true of the domestic assault on democracy that we have experienced in North Carolina. Extremists didn't hack our elections because the fusion coalition that demonstrated its political power in 2008 was weak. They attacked us because we are strong.
The only way to combat the right-wing attack on voting rights, Barber concluded, is to "build a multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational coalition committed to the common good and a democracy that works for all. This is the kind of resistance that can transform the politics that make Trump possible."
Barber reiterated these views on Friday, calling on everyone to "stand up, march, and fight against systemic racism."
Watch part of the march:
Speaking just steps from the Supreme Court, Barber said only a "real shift in our moral narrative" would make systemic change possible, given the strength of those bent on rolling back the victories of the civil rights era.
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"Since June 25, 2013 [the day the Supreme Court rendered ineffectual a key provision of the Voting Rights Act] we have had hundreds of voter suppression laws," he said. "According to the Brennan Center, 99 just this year since May."
Barber went on to lament that it is in some cases easier to obtain a gun in the United States than it is to vote, due to the imposition of strict voter ID laws.
"Healthcare is a human right. Period."
—Rev. William J. BarberDespite recent signs that the Supreme Court is beginning to take seriously unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and vote suppression, Barber said the issue of voting rights remains "the key issue of our time."
"For nearly four years, the leadership of the Senate and the House have not brought forward one bill to fully restore the Voting Rights Act," said Barber said. "This is the real hacking of our democracy; the real hacking of our election system."
Highlighting Republican attempts to dismantle what is left of the social safety net and strip healthcare from millions, Barber argued that none of this would be possible if the Voting Rights Act remained fully intact.
— RepairersOfTheBreach (@BRepairers) June 23, 2017
In an interview with Vox's Jeff Stein, published on Friday as the march commenced, Barber said the GOP's attempt to repeal Obamacare in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy lays bare the "deep immorality we have in this country right now."
To fight back, Barber concluded, it is essential to press for ambitious alternatives.
"We try to argue defensively rather than offensively too often," he said. "We're so ready to move into compromise [mode] before we allow the people understand the real moral and political issue is. Which should be: Healthcare is a human right. Period."