Disrupt | July 13, 2013
>>> this year marks the 50th anniversary of the march on washington and it is another pivotal year in the struggle for civil rights in america. a recent supreme court decision struck down a key part of the voting rights act . section four which was design to combat discrimination enshrined in any proposed changes to voting procedures like, say, new i.d. requirements or rolling back early voting . in the aftermath of an election in which voters face unprecedented areas to voting, a congress that cannot agree on much faces a mandate to rewrite that section and both political parties face the reality of a changed electorate. voting rights hero congressman john lewis said it best on the day of the supreme court 's decision.
>> the american people shall use the 50th anniversary of the march on washington and other opportunities to say we still need voting rights protection in our country. they must compel each and member of congress to act in a bipartisan fashion, to fix, the supreme court broke. we must do it we must do it now. before another national election takes place. it is our calling. it is our mission. it is our mandate. and we have an obligation to act.
>> the issue will be front and center as the naacp gathers for its 104th convention in orlando, florida. joining us now, the president and ceo of the naacp, benjamin jealous . thank you for being here.
>> thank you.
>> so obviously we talk a lot politically about the dysfunction in congress and the challenge of getting this done. to some degree, politically speaking, it is in the best interests of both sides to get something done.
>> that's right. that's right. this is a time for the republican party to stand up and say that they have a back bone when it comes to our most basic civil rights . we've done polling that shows that a republican presidential candidate could pick up 15% of the black vote. 50% more if he was seen as a pro civil rights candidate. this is a real opportunity for the democratic party , before the republican party to show people a different face. it is also an opportunity for democratic leaders to show that they can forge bipartisan consensus. and at this moment, we're asking the republicans to step up and we're asking the democrats to hold off on the highly partisan rhetoric as we seek to push forward the john lewis bill which thankfully is already being talked about as the lewis sensenbrenner bill which shows that at least for some people in congress, there is the intention of forging bipartisan consensus right now.
>> you know, one of the thing that struck me in the aftermath of this is that it was really the record turnout among african-american and latino voters that really changed the electorate, elected a democratic president, and you know, in essence, when you hear progressives talk about the environment or lgbt rights . you name it. that agenda would be very different, frankly, if, and we wouldn't have a president obama and congress would look very differently without the black and latino vote. i just wonder, does democratic party realize that as well. we focus politically a lot on republicans but this is a moment for democrats and other parts of the progressive moment. this is not just a black/white issue anymore.
>> no. this has always been an issue at the core of our democracy itself. this voting rights act was really put in place to help us get closer to making, being one nation under god with liberty and justice for all, our situation rather than our aspiration. we all have an interest in that. there are some folks in the party who i've heard talking about, we can use it as a wedge issue. no. all of us should be saying, we're going to get this done before it can become a wedge issue. this is a time to step up. be disciplined as citizens in saying, we are going to ensure that all of our citizens' right to vote is protected in the most basic way.
>> you know, ben, i want you to tell us about the convention itself. i would be remiss if i didn't mention, obviously you are not far from where you are, the george zimmerman trial has been going on. we have the jury deliberating in the murder of trayvon martin and i wanted to get your thoughts on that as well.
>> i was up on sanford on friday. and it was heartening to see that the town has really come more close together. they have drawn closer since last year. i spent a week there last year. perhaps at the height of the tensions in sanford when we had white supremacists patrolling the town. and it was just the whole town felt like it was on edge. and people really have come closer together. i think the new chief there has done a lot of great work in his first 100 days to begin shifting the culter of that department which frankly, has had eight leaders in the past five years and was really looking for the type of principled strong management that he has brought to the task. and his mayor, jeff triplet, has been doing a very good job. but really quite frankly , it is our branch president . clayton turner had a has led that branch for 25 years and spent 25 years on law enforcement who has really helped pull things together with local clergy, both colors and people throughout the community. at the grassroots level who have really acted to pull sanford together. that's a very good sign.
>> also, people seem reasonably confident that mr. zimmerman will be convicted. when you're here on the ground, people actually know the florida jury say, it was just too much evidence not to be convicted. i think the important thing is that no matter what happens, people understand that there are still additional legal avenues. he can still be charged with federal civil rights charges. he could still be held accountable through the process. so criminal and civil news no matter what happens. it is important that people know that we as a civil rights community have always been very clear. we want to let justice run its course. we were angry last year because he wasn't being locked up. he was locked up, charged. we need to let things run its course no matter what that here, there's still more that can be done through the justice system .