We hate to keep beating y’all in the head about the voting rights war not being over, but seriously, it’s not over. First Lady Michelle Obama reinforced this point recently on the Tom Joyner Show where she implored listeners to stay awake about voter suppression. After Tom Joyner congratulated black voters on their turnout, saying, “we did the darn thing,” Obama quickly reminded him that the work is not done. Said Obama:
[Y]ou just have to keep being there, because the battles are not over. That’s just really the important thing to continue to stress, that we cannot do what we did in 2008, which is vote and then go back to sleep — because the real work is coming up.
What Obama is referring to is the record black turnout we had in 2008 that helped propel her husband into the White House before a precipitous dropoff in black turnout in 2010. Black turnout was a small fraction that year compared to 2008, and the consequences have been disastrous for her husband’s agenda. 2010 marked the rise of the Tea Party, which helped the Republican Party take over the congressional House and dozens of state legislatures across the nation. What that meant was a mean fight against Obamacare that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and also a damaging array of voter ID and other voter restriction laws around the country. As Obama told Joyner:
Unprecedented amounts of money were being spent on advertising, negative advertising. Voter suppression was in full force in so many states all over this country. Yet what wins out is people just going to the polls and voting. In the end, that is how this democracy works, and that’s really just the message.
States have already begun proposing new voter ID laws for next year, and the GOP is gearing up for a new voter suppression effort where they will try to change the electoral college vote system so that votes are apportioned to congressional districts instead of the current winner-takes-all formula. If that system had been in place in November, Mitt Romney would have one. Which is why Obama said, “We have a solid victory under our belt, but we are nowhere near finished.”