The leaked draft Supreme Court decision on abortion confirmed what many of us already knew – the Court will not protect or save us. And based on the reaction from some in the White House and Congress, the Democratic Party won’t either unless we hold them accountable. Black people have a chance to hold elected officials accountable during the 2022 primary.
Republicans have shown that they are willing to do anything to keep white supremacy firmly in its place. Governors like Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Brian Kemp are actively working to not only take away abortion rights and deny access. They’ve attacked voting rights, further criminalized Black protest, and rolled back protections for Black women and transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex (TGNCI) people.
States like Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas all have trigger laws that would go into effect immediately once Roe v. Wade is overturned. Such laws will criminalize and harm our communities. Knowing this, the only response out of Washington is more lectures about the behavior of people who are being terrorized by their government.
This speaks to the harmful, complacent pattern we’ve seen from Democrats since taking the majority. Democrats failed to increase the minimum wage. Democrats failed to enshrine Roe in federal legislation. They have been unable to pass any meaningful policies that address the police violence that persist in this country.
Democrats have even failed to pass meaningful protections from anti-voter laws that disproportionately target and impact Black people, who candidates expect to support them at the ballot box in the Fall. The common excuse for inaction on these issues is that the Republicans are not interested in bipartisan legislation. But the record shows that it is moderate white Democrats who are stopping these critical policies from becoming law.
In 2020, we saw Black voters turn out in historic numbers to defeat Donald Trump and provide a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Two years into that majority, Black voters are still waiting on Democrats to make good on the promises made on the 2020 campaign trail. From voting rights to climate issues or combatting police violence – all issues that mobilized Black voters–Democrats have struggled to deliver for the base that delivered for them.
So what are Black voters to do to ensure that the party with the majority of our votes enacts our vision? Black voters must engage in the primary elections and elect more progressives to Congress.
Over the last five years, we have seen the impact of electing progressives who fight for us and challenging status quo elected officials who are more beholden to corporate interests than working-class people. When progressive candidates make it to Congress, they are more likely to introduce policies and fight for issues that impact Black voters. They are generally more inclined to use positions to serve the people rather than using their positions to maintain their own power.
For instance, freshman Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) shook up Congress by introducing the People’s Response Act, which is inspired by the BREATHE Act and calls for investing millions of dollars into non-carceral responses to public safety, which are proven methods of reducing crime. The bill goes even further by demanding a wholesale shift in our approach to public safety, from one focused on policing and punishment to one focused on public health and public healing.
Another progressive member of Congress, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), has consistently introduced progressive policy, from launching the Progressive Policy Pledge that requires elected officials and aspiring policymakers to commit to supporting five major policy platforms: student debt cancellation, criminal justice reform, a federal jobs guarantee, ending the discriminatory treatment of girls of color in schools, and investing in public transit.
She’s built on that pledge with the introduction of the Fix Clemency Act. The legislation would create an independent U.S. Clemency Board (Board) that is made up of nine individuals appointed by the President, including a person who is formerly incarcerated.
There are many intriguing races to focus on this year, but most importantly, every Congressional seat is up for re-election. Moreover, candidates are challenging the status quo in almost every state. These candidates are committed to ending the cycle of control and threats to bodily autonomy and fighting against any interest seeking to hold on to power rather than prioritizing the people.
With more than 20 seats vacated by incumbent Democrats that have retired or moved on to different offices, the 2022 elections present a solid opportunity to hold the Democratic party accountable. While it is tough to unseat a well-resourced incumbent, especially when the Democratic party is doubling down on their candidates, we have a right to make a different choice this year.
As corporate Democrats double down on policies that do not keep us safe or improve our well-being, we must use the primaries as an opportunity to make them feel that we are watching and that they will have to answer for it.
Kayla Reed is a Black, queer organizer and strategist from St. Louis, Missouri. She is co-founder and executive director of Action St. Louis and a lead strategist in the Movement for Black Lives, where she co-founded the Electoral Justice Project.
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