STANDING UP to racism and intolerance is a moral imperative, and those who do, like Heather Heyer, the young woman who died as she challenged the thugs in Charlottesville last Saturday, are champions of American principles. In an era when so many bedrock values are under attack, it’s important to think strategically and prioritize the ones worth fighting for.
An exemplar of such strategic thinking, Martin Luther King Jr., fought on multiple fronts but prioritized one in particular: voting rights. Today, as in the 1960s, that same fight makes sense. For in this new civil rights era, voting rights for broad swaths of Americans — minorities, the young and the old — are again imperiled and under attack.
Many Confederate statues, which memorialize a murderous act of treason on an epic scale in defense of an inhumane institution, deserve to come down or at least be repurposed as museum pieces. Many were erected not just as historical remembrances but as retrograde political statements, mainly in the early 20th century as Jim Crow laws formally codified racism in the South, and in the 1950s and ’60s as a thumb in the eye of the civil rights movement.
Yet even if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.
In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.
Mr. Trump’s voter fraud commission is at the vanguard of this crusade, and the fix is in. Its vice chairman, Kris Kobach, is the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression. Under his tutelage, the commission is likely to recommend measures whose effect will be that new obstacles to voting would be taken up in state legislatures. Millions of voters are at risk of disenfranchisement from this effort, and the knock-on effects of such a mass act of disempowerment are dizzying.
The events in Charlottesville and the president’s apologia for the right-wing extremists there should mobilize anyone passionate about civil rights. There would be no better target for their energies than the clear and present danger to the most fundamental right in any democracy: the vote.
Read more on this topic:
The Post’s View: The man who may disenfranchise millions
Edward Burmila: How Trump’s delusions of voter fraud will turn election results into fake news
The Post’s View: Remember Heather Heyer
The Post’s View: It’s time for a full and fair reckoning with Confederate statues
Karen L. Cox: The whole point of Confederate monuments is to celebrate white supremacy