Obama used a portion of his eulogy Thursday for the late civil rights leader to endorse several voting reform policies, including implementing automatic voter registration, establishing Election Day as a national holiday and passing comprehensive new voting rights legislation.
But the former president also lamented that too many people choose not to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and condemned the various barriers some Americans face when trying to cast their ballots.
“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,” he said, alluding to voting laws championed largely by Republicans.
Miller, perhaps best known for his support of hard-line immigration policies, defended voter ID laws but otherwise offered little in the way of evidence to rebut Obama’s claims. Spokespeople for Obama’s post-presidential office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Miller’s criticisms.
A handful of other prominent conservatives have also attacked Obama’s speech at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church as overly political and inappropriate for an event intended to memorialize a person’s life.
“Imagine if some greasy politician showed up at your loved one’s funeral and started throwing around stupid partisan talking points about Senate procedure,” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said on his show Thursday night. “Can you imagine that? You would be shocked if that happened. You would probably walk out. Desecrating a funeral with campaign slogans, what kind of person would do that?”
Obama’s eulogy touched on issues inextricably linked to Lewis’ legacy as a lawmaker and civil rights champion. A leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. He went on to serve for more than three decades in Congress and made it his life’s mission to promote social justice activism.
Obama acknowledged as much Thursday. “I know this is a celebration of John’s life. There are some who might say we shouldn’t dwell on such things. But that’s why I’m talking about it. John Lewis devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what’s best in America that we are seeing circulate right now,” he said.
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