January 11, 2022

Presidents give lots of speeches for lots of reasons, but most of them aren't aimed at their own party alongside the opposing party. Biden's speech today on voting rights, given in Georgia, was aimed at each and every senator opposing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

At one point in the speech, he called out the senators with whom he has had "quiet conversations," saying that he's tired of being quiet and he's calling them to get on the right side of history. He also called for an end to the filibuster, at least with regard to issues concerning voting rights:

To emphasize that, he said this:

I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered? Consequential moments in history, they present a choice. Do you want to be -- on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? The side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? The side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy. And if you do that, you will not be alone. That's because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone. We saw freedom riders of every race, leaders of every faith marching arm in arm. And yes, Democrats and Republicans in the Congress of the United States and in the presidency. I did not live the struggles of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Cheney, countless others, known and unknown. I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds, but I walked other grounds because I'm so damn old, I was there as well.

That framing is perfect. Let every Senator -- Republican and Democrat alike -- decide whether they want to stand with Dr. King or Bull Connor. Every one.

Reaction to the speech was mixed, with many wishing he'd done this a year ago.

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