Not that anyone expected the organizers of the 50th March on Washington to ask President Obama for anything, but now, with the President speaking at the event, it’s guaranteed the White House won’t be pressured on specific policy. Though organizers say pressure should be brought on Congress (and they’re absolutely right…) on voting rights, jobs and criminal justice the other truth is that pressure should be brought on everyone in power — Democrat and Republican.
Without specific pressure on individuals who are controlling the agenda on specific issues, the 50th anniversary march is destined to become, well, just another march. Without a specific plan of attack when the march is over, “a dream without a plan is a wish” to quote former New York Jets coach Herman Edwards. If we look at how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won so many political victories during the civil rights era and how political victories are won present day, we see a familiar formula: Pressure + Voting/Money = Victory.
There is a lost of policy issues that the President and Congress have a big say in to say the least. They include:
1. JOBS. The Urban Jobs Act or The American Jobs Act The President should be pressured to attach money for jobs onto the next big deal on the debt ceiling coming up on October 1. Will their be a government shutdown? Probably not. But if President Obama can agree to extend the Bush tax cuts — including making the estate tax permanent for $4 trillion — why can’t he try and push for the Urban Jobs Act or his very own American Jobs Act which cost much less and create jobs?
2. JUSTICE. Currently the Obama Administration is fighting reciprocity regarding the much bragged about Fair Sentencing Act that moved the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity from 1:100 to 1:18. The President signed the legislation in 2010 after Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) got the bill through the House and Senate. Now the Justice Department is fighting against reciprocity even after the Supreme Court said it was OK.
Stand your gound. Speaking of Justice, one would assume that part of the theme of the march would include putting pressure on the Department Justice to investigate George Zimmerman under the federal hate crime laws. You can hear President Obama roll back any enthusiasm on that during his statement on
Racial profiling. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) along with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) just dropped a piece of legislation that would ban police officers on the federal level from racial profiling and provide grants for training. Not only should march organizers be endorsing that legislation, but they should also be speaking out against hiring New York City Police Chief Ray Kelly for any job in the Administration. Kelly is currently running the biggest government sponsored racial profiling campaign in America.
Mandatory Minimums With the understanding that nothing can get through an obstructionist GOP controlled House without bi-partisanship, it would be a good idea to focus on legislation that both Ds and Rs have endorsed. Specifically that would be the Justice Safety Valve Act which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences by giving more power to judges. The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Senate and has a Republican co-sponsor in the House. With George Will and the Heritage foundation backing the bill, what’s the President waiting for?
Youth Violence/Over Incarceration. The Youth PROMISE Act was endorsed by a long list of civil rights leaders, activists and celebrities in a letter sent to President Obama in April see here. The legislation would save money by putting money into community based prevention rather than in to incarceration.
Voting. Of course voting rights and voter suppression will be a main theme of the march. But there’s something else related to voting that should be a theme.
Florida prosecutor Angela Corey is up for re-election in November. For the case of Marissa Alexander alone, there should be an effort that combines getting out the vote and a specific protest against Corey specifically. It’s not enough to simply demand action. Until specific people who are involved specific policy are targeted and voted out of office nothing will change. Pressure should be directed at House Speaker John Bohner (D-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), they ultimately control whether or not the House will consider fixing the Voting Rights Act after Section 4 was gutted by Chief Justice John Roberts.
The White House released the following statement this afternoon: On Wednesday, August 28, the President will deliver remarks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More details, including media credentialing information and logistics, will be released as they become available.”