• February 3rd, 2023
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Stand Up for the People That Gave You the Majority


 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

 

Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter written to Senate Democrats by Bishop William J. Barber II on Monday, December 12, 2022.

 

Dear Senators: I’m writing to you as I give thanks for Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock’s US Senate victory in Georgia—a victory in the South that demonstrates the power of a moral vision and moral leadership to galvanize a fusion coalition for a new America. Think about it: Senator Warnock won in Georgia and North Carolina has moved from 3 out of 13 seats, just a few years ago, to 7 out of 14 for Democrats. But there is also a sober reflection we must engage. As Senator Warnock noted, his victory was not the result of ending voter suppression. It is, instead, evidence of the exceptional efforts of the people despite voter suppression—especially poor and low-wage voters of different backgrounds who joined neighbors who oppose extremism to give you an expanded majority. This coalition wants to see bills that have passed the House and are sitting on Senator Schumer’s desk become law before this Congress comes to an end.

 

Why don’t you confound the common sense about lame duck sessions and show the people who worked tirelessly to keep you in power that you are ready to go to work for them?

We know that voting rights protections, a $15 minimum wage, and protections for women’s rights have stalled because two Democrats have not been willing to unite around plans to carve out the filibuster and overcome the united obstruction of 50 Republicans. But in the way that the midterms have unfolded for the Senate, you have a mandate from the voters now. And you have a narrow window in which your party can unite to make a real difference for the people. Now is the time to act.

 

The people are with you, especially if you frame your actions not as Democrat or Republican, but as the right response for the future of the nation. You have the power to act. After McCarthy takes over the House, you will have no chance of passing any of these policies for the next two years.

 

Before you took control of the Senate in 2020, Senator Manchin supported the For the People Act and proposals to raise the minimum wage, but he withdrew his support as soon as you had the power to act. He sees this new power structure coming to the Senate and is clear he will have to work with them. Now is the time to act boldly for the good of the nation and the good of the people.

 

You cannot afford to let history record that over a two-year period you did not use every method at your disposal to pass the For the People Act, Voting Rights Act Restoration, $15 dollar minimum wage, and protection of a woman’s right to choose—measures that already passed in the House, but have been blocked by the Senate’s filibuster.

 

I am praying that you will call the votes and believe in the possibility of a Christmas miracle. You won infrastructure. You won the Inflation Reduction Act. You won protections for the right to marry whom you desire. Some said you could never gain a seat in this midterm election. But Warnock won because poor and low-wage voters showed up, young people showed up, women showed up, and people who might not have supported a Democrat before showed up to say that they want to see these things happen. Why don’t you confound the common sense about lame duck sessions and show the people who worked tirelessly to keep you in power that you are ready to go to work for them?

 

It has been more than 9 years since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and 13 years since the federal minimum wage has increased. You would not have won the majority you now enjoy without the support of people targeted by voter suppression and low-wage workers. In this moment, you have the opportunity to vote for them. Now is the time to call the votes. God has given the Senate an opportunity to change the heart of democracy. I pray you will take it.

 

 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

 

 

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