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Voting Rights Activist LaTosha Brown: Trump Is Hellbent on Undermining Democracy to Win Reelection

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With President Trump trailing in most polls, he tweeted recently that he was floating the idea of delaying the November election — something he cannot legally do — and continued his attacks on mail-in voting. “We have a president who is probably the most fascist president that we’ve ever had in this country,” responds LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute. “He is hellbent on pushing the boundaries, whatever he needs to do, to undermine and undercut democracy.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s our next guest, LaTosha Brown, singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” as she witnessed Congressmember John Lewis’s last journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in her native home of Selma, Alabama, that took place last weekend. This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman. As President Trump trailed in the polls last week, he tweeted Thursday he’s floating the idea of delaying the 2020 election, that would be, quote, “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” Hours after Trump tweeted, former President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy at John Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta, where he called for sweeping changes to expand voting rights.

BARACK OBAMA: Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Barack Obama, giving the eulogy at the funeral of civil rights icon John Lewis.

Well, for more, we go to Atlanta, where we’re joined by LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute, 2019 Harvard Institute of Politics fellow.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, LaTosha. It’s great to have you with us. So, there you are, singing at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, watching John Lewis’s casket being carried across in a carriage of two black horses. You’re a leader in the voting rights movement. Can you talk about Trump saying that mail-in votes disqualifies elections, that they’re fraudulent?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, it’s so surreal, the moment that we’re going through, as — I think, on the backdrop of all the work and celebrating the work of John Lewis and other advocates and civil rights leaders who did so much to secure the right to vote. And then we’ve got this other — this dichotomy where we have a president who is probably the most fascist president that we’ve ever had in this country.

And fundamentally, you know, when I’m thinking about his tweet, I think it has a — there’s a couple of reasons that he did it. One, he knows he doesn’t have the power to do it, but that hasn’t stopped him before. I think he is hellbent on pushing the boundaries, whatever he needs to do, to undermine and undercut democracy.

The second thing he does, which is very similar to what we saw in the voting rights movement, is that he creates — he wants to create an environment of fear, a culture of fear. And so he goes out, and he makes these tweets so that his base can get all up in arms. He can already set the stage for what he plans if he loses, as he knows that he’s actually doing — he’s not doing well on the polls right now, that it also sets the tone for that, so that he creates that kind of confusion.

And the third thing I think that he does is that he wants to create kind of a confusion among voters in general. He wants to dissuade voters from feeling that it is possible in this election cycle. It’s almost like a distraction. You know, I do notice that the day that he did it, this is when we had the highest number of cases of COVID-19 that were reported that day. And so I also think that he has a really masterful way of wanting to change the subject so he can change the news cycle, that oftentimes when he’s actually coming under pressure in the news cycle, what he will do is he will say something racist or very inflammatory so that it shifts the news cycle. So I think that it was a combination of what he said around all of that.

But just like you heard in that video, it’s just not me. There are millions of Americans who have been taking to the streets over the last couple of months, who are saying, “We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.” And so, he’s got to deal with what he has underestimated. He has really underestimated the power of the people.

And so, ultimately, in November, you know, I think what his best — what he thinks is his best tactic is to literally create enough doubt, so that he can create confusion, and that in some way he can actually create his base, where there is — to undermine the results of the election cycle.

AMY GOODMAN: According to reports, the number of registered voters in your state of Georgia is approaching an all-time high. An article published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says there are nearly 70,000 more voters in Georgia today than there were in May. About 30% of the voters said they were Black. What do you attribute this massive increase in voter registration to?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, I think people are paying attention in ways that we haven’t been paying attention, that Americans haven’t been paying attention before. We have been devastated by COVID-19. There are millions of people right now that are without their jobs. We now have a Congress and a Senate that refuses to extend the unemployment benefits. People are demanding something different. They are fundamentally frustrated with the process. They’re seeing all of this at right before their eyes. Trump has failed to show any leadership. And what we’re seeing is record numbers.

I was out somewhere the other day at a grocery store — and I don’t really go out that often — and there was a young person that walked up to me and asked how could they register, because they had recognized who I was. I’ve also been getting those kind of text messages. I’ve never gotten this kind of response from people who are actually coming to me. Usually we’re going out trying to get people to register to vote. But folks have been calling me, young people in particular. So I think we all see what’s happening in this country, and I think people are starting to get a sense of how critical this election cycle is, not just because — to move Trump out, but because he is actually creating harm in our community.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, that came after the meltdown primary in Georgia. You know, the former secretary of state, who’s now the governor, Brian Kemp, doing everything from — around coronavirus, copying Trump and not wanting to impose any kind of statewide mask mandate, to, on the issue of voting, continue to challenge votes. Now, Stacey Abrams raised the issue of the amount of money, or the lack of money, that’s being put into these stimulus packages for voting in November. Do you think, LaTosha Brown, that Democrats in Congress are doing enough to ensure a free and fair election and ensure that people have access to the polls, especially mail-in voting, and educated about what that means?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, I think — I don’t think that there’s enough being done. I do think that there are some Democrats who have been champions of this process, and I admire them, and I lift them up in their work. But we’ve got to stop looking at this as a partisan issue. This is a democracy issue.

So, fundamentally, what we have to do is we’ve got to press all of those in Congress, even those on the outside. We’ve got to put additional pressure on our elected officials, whether they be Democrat or Republican, to say that we want a free and fair election, that the people deserve that.

And so, what I am not seeing is what I am — you know, I am not seeing the level of intensity around protecting and ensuring that we have a free and fair election that I think we’re going to need. It is clear that we have an administration who plans to steal this election. It is clear that we have an attorney general who is complicit around this, and also the Republicans.

So I think that we need something far more intense, far more far-reaching. And I think we need — every day, there should be a press conference by the House or by Democratic members talking about the dangers of voter suppression, every single day. And so, I’m not seeing it at that level, but I know that there are some that are fighting.

AMY GOODMAN: LaTosha Brown, you were one of seven prominent Black women who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post headlined “Biden still needs Black women. Here are 3 things he needs to do.” He is expected to choose a candidate, a vice-presidential running mate, any day now. You wrote, quote, “Biden’s only path to victory is through black women and the voters we know how to energize. Though we have propped up the Democratic Party for decades, the return on our investment in the party might as well read, 'insufficient funds.'” You went on to outline the three points for Biden, which were: America needs a Black woman as vice president, America needs a Black female Supreme Court justice, and America needs a comprehensive Black agenda. Expand on this.

LATOSHA BROWN: So, I think that what we need to recognize, and I think we know, that for the last 50 years, particularly for the Democratic Party, Black women have been the most consistent, at the highest turnout base in any constituency group in this country. Yet, in the last 50 years, we’ve not had a Supreme Court nominee of a Black woman. We have not had a Black woman in the highest positions as president or vice president, or even nominated or considered as president or vice president. In addition to that, what we’ve seen is we’ve seen underrepresentation of Black women in not only just political office, but political appointees.

And so we are demanding something different, that as we are going into this new phase of American democracy, that those who are on the frontlines, who are protecting and who have always been on the vanguard of protecting democracy — we stood a hundred years ago with our white female counterparts although our own vote wasn’t secured 'til 50 years later — that we have consistently been on the vanguard of pushing democracy; however, we have been completely underrepresented. And part of it is not just because I think that the time is now, even though I do think that. Where in the world, if someone had showed up for 50 years, and they're not considered in the top two or three positions? I mean, that, in itself, if it was a white man, it would be unconscionable.

But aside from that, we’re in a moment right now that Black women, we know that we are in a space around racial tensions and racial division in this country, and we really need a depth of understanding around structural racism. We also need someone who has a depth of understanding around gender issues. We sit, Black women sit, squarely in the space of gender and race. One, I think that there’s a particular offering that we bring to this process, that Biden actually needs a Black woman to actually bring some excitement, some energy to the ticket, and a depth of knowledge and experience. And any of the women that are on the list, I think, actually could meet that.

But I think it’s a critical, fundamental issue that we have to talk about what happens when you exclude populations, particularly those populations that have consistently showed up for you. And so, that’s why I am continuing to stand on this is the moment. You know, I think it’s interesting that when Biden said he needed a — he was going to select a woman, no one questioned that. Why didn’t anybody question that? Because we knew it was the time, that we knew it, based on having this environment that we’re in right now, that it was natural for him to say that there was time for a woman to lead. Does the same not apply to — in this moment that we’re in right now, a Black woman would bring a critical voice to this process and bring a certain level of energy and expertise.

AMY GOODMAN: LaTosha Brown, I want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute. Thanks so much for joining us.

When we come back, we speak to a Moroccan journalist, human rights activist, who has just been jailed. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy. Chuck D just turned 60 this weekend.

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