As We Feast, Joe Madison is On a Hunger Strike for Voting Rights (Video)

“Just as food is essential for the existence of life, voting is essential for the existence of democracy.”

Those are the words of iconic civil rights activist and progressive radio talk show host Joe Madison on November 8, the day he announced he was beginning a hunger strive to urge congressional lawmakers to pass the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

It’s Thanksgiving, the holiday dedicated to food and giving thanks for abundance, and Mr. Madison’s strike is on day 18.

Voting rights in the United States are under assault as they haven’t been since President Lyndon Johnson, responding to enormous pressure, signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965.

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court gutted section five of that act that required pre-clearance from the Justice Department any time a state sought to revise its voting laws lest it overtly or covertly discriminate against voters based on race.

As soon as the court handed down that ruling, states belonging to the former confederacy gerrymandered districts and purged voter roles at a pace not seen since the Jim Crow era.

Just this year alone, at least 19 states have enacted 33 laws to make it harder for Americans to vote.

Those are the ones that have already been signed into law.

There are many more still wending their way through state legislatures that will likely wind up on republican governors’ desks.

House Resolution (HR) 1, or the “For the People Act,re-introduced this January would codify provisions to prevent the types of voter suppression being rushed through.

It passed the House 220-210 on March 3 with no Republican support and only one Democrat opposing.

Since then it has languished in the 50/50 Senate awaiting certain filibuster.

In September, Senate Democrats rolled out S.2747–“The Freedom to Vote Act“–being hailed as the compromise necessary to get the bill onto President Joe Biden’s desk.

The “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021” is another important bill intended to restore and update key components of the VRA, establishing “new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices may take effect.

This month, Senate republicans, naturally, blocked it during a procedural vote on whether or not to open debate on it.

Mr. Madison is 72 years old and a cancer survivor.

He has children, grandchildren, and a great grandchild.

He is willing to sacrifice his health and life so Congress can get consequential voting rights legislation on President Joe Biden’s desk.

Think about that as we conclude Thanksgiving and head into the end-of-the-year festivities.

Think about that as we head into next year’s mid-term elections.

This week on Thom Hartmann’s radio program, Joe Madison proclaimed:

“Joe Biden wouldn’t have been able to sign that landmark bill, with the infrastructure. We put that pen in his hand. And so, he owes us.” 

He added:

“One of the things people should understand is that Putin and the Chinese are loving this. They’re hoping that these bills don’t pass.” 

As he frequently tells his audience, “The difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice,” and “Everyone can do something.”

Image credit: Flickr

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.