It took just one tweet for the leader of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to at once both expertly troll a Democratic U.S. Senator vehemently opposed to advancing voting rights legislation and point out the hypocrisy of her stance at the same time.
Derrick Johnson, who as president and CEO of the NAACP has reinvented the group to be a major influencer in modern politics, needed just two words to sarcastically remind Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema that her opposition to her party’s latest push to counter a wave of Republican-led restrictive election laws around the country was farcical, at best.
He reminded Sinema of the tweet she posted just one day after the legendary U.S. Rep. John Lewis died of cancer in 2020. In the tweet, Sinema posted a photo of her self smiling broadly alongside Lewis, who is largely recognized as a pioneering civil rights icon for famously leading a march in 1965 with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama to demand voting rights for Black people.
Sinema captioned the photo in part by referring to Lewis as, “My hero.”
But given Sinema’s recent doubling down on her opposition to her fellow Democrats’ push for voting rights — including the passage of John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, her purported “hero” — Johnson wasn’t quite convinced that he truly held Lewis in a heroic light.
That’s why he asked Sinema in his tweet on Friday, “You sure?” The tweet was accompanied by a single hashtag: “#DefendDemocracy.”
The point Johnson made was clear: How can Sinema call Lewis a “hero” and block voting rights legislation named for him that would secure the ballot equality for which he fought the lion share of his life?
President Joe Biden on Tuesday delivered a fiery rebuke to the lingering opposition by comparing anybody against those efforts to the likes of racist figures in political history, including George Wallace, the former segregationist governor of Alabama who was similarly against equal voting rights.
Biden, who has been long resistant to calls from voting rights activists and Democrats alike, used his speech in Atlanta to finally call for the Senate to change the rules for the filibuster, a divisive political tactic that has been described as a “racist” relic of Jim Crow because of its roots in blocking civil rights-based legislation.
But Sinema responded in part by delivering her own speech in the Senate chamber on Thursday to confirm that she was not swayed by the president’s words. Without apparently realizing the hypocrisy of her own words, Sinema said, “I will not support separate actions that worsen the … disease of division infecting our country.”
Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin have been the lone two Senate Democrats who have been steadfast in their opposition of advancing any voting rights legislation to even the stage of debate. Their support for chaing the filibuster rule is seen as crucial to advancing any legislation, including police reform and voting rights, both of which Senate Republicans blocked multiple times last year by using the filibuster, which the U.S. Senate website loosely defines as “action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question.”
Manchin released a statement on Thursday saying how important it was to keep the filibuster intact without making any changes to the controversial rule.
“I cannot support such a perilous course of action,” Manchin said in part.
Meanwhile, Sinema’s staunch opposition to advancing voting rights ahead of this year’s midterm elections may be tantamount to career suicide. According to a new report from Politico, her Senate speech shooting down Biden’s pitch to change the filibuster rule renewed speculation that Arizona Democrats were actively working to find a candidate to challenge her in the primary for her re-election in 2024 and take Sinema’s Senate seat.