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tv   Martin Luther King III Discusses Voting Rights  CSPAN  January 15, 2022 12:50am-1:28am EST

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man remains undone. his eldest son is using the holiday to focus on voting rights, with action in arizona tomorrow the birthday of martin luther king, and here in washington on monday, the holiday. joining me now is martin luther king iii, chairman of the drum major institute. welcome to "washington post live." martin: thank you. jonathan: i saw you maybe a couple of weeks ago. let's talk about a tweet to put out an hour ago. you twisted, until our freedom to vote is secure, we don't see progress on issues that matter most to us, abortion access, gun violence prevention, economic equality, racial justice, climate change. president biden and congress, do what is right and pass voting rights legislation, all caps,
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now. i hear you. millions of americans hear you and agree with you. why don't you think any action has been taken or will be taken on voting rights? chair: -- martin: i would first of all say i was greatly disappointed yesterday to hear senator sinema and senator manchin take positions that appear to close the opportunity for something to be done. but what i am perplexed by more than that is, there are 50 democrats, those two included in the 50, who say they do support the bills. i don't know how you can support the bills without stating that
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you want a pathway for that to happen and no one seems to be answering that question. i don't know, what i would say is, while i am greatly disappointed, i am even more engaged to be charging forward as we go into phoenix tomorrow, the actual birthday of dad. we will be there with over 150 of our partners. we are saying, look, we saw what happens when you do what you can do as president and congress with infrastructure. and we are going to be walking over a bridge. now, we need you to do the same thing to protect democracy, and for voting rights. it is a simple message. we are going to be doing the same thing in washington dc on
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monday, the actual holiday. now, what we have done with these partners, and over 1000 ministers, as well as all the major labor unions, maybe some senators aren't listening. therefore, on the holiday, i would hope we can get messes of people from around our nation on the king holiday to be engaged in civil action, calling their senators, tweeting their senators, emailing the senators saying we want to see voting rights protected and we need the government to weigh in. jonathan: mr. king, you were planning on being in arizona tomorrow, the birthday of your father, long before senator sinema did what she did yesterday. why arizona?
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why not georgia? why not texas? why not any other state? martin: our initial plan was to be in arizona and always to be in d.c. we thought about even coming to atlanta, but we decided the timing would not allow us to do the three cities. so, since legislation has already occurred in arizona, just as in georgia, but in addition to legislation, there has been a court ruling as well. and when you look at the black and brown and most of all the indigenous community that is there, it is the right area to be. and finally, because senator sinema is there, we want her to know. her constituents have got to have some level of influence on her. maybe they haven't so far, but
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if it comes to a head january 15, i think that is very important. jonathan: have you had a conversation with senator sinema about voting rights? >> no. we have requested conversations end up to now, we have not been able to have a conversation. jonathan: no conversation at all? martin: with senator manchin, conversations have taken place bid with senator sinema, we have not been able to secure a meeting. some have told us her own constituents have not been able to get any meetings. i don't know if that is true, but that is what we have heard. jonathan: what does it say to you that you haven't had a conversation with her, that you haven't been able to engage in dialogue with her? martin: the main thing is disappointment. but as i said in a tweet yesterday, history is not going to be judging her, or maybe
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them, in the way that perhaps they would want to be remembered. history is looking at her and him dead in the face to say it was time to make sure democracy was preserved and saved, and what did you do? and that is on her. jonathan: "the wall street journal" reported you said yesterday that history will remember senator sinema unkindly. she is siding with the legacy of bull wallace and -- bull connor and george wallace. this tracks with what president biden said in atlanta on tuesday. what did you think of the president's speech? martin: i thought that it was time. it was timely. i maybe would have liked to have seen it done earlier, but the
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fact that it is done now, and i know he had the two senators to the white house last night after they made their statements, and that is what i think has to keep going on, that kind of discussion, over and over and over, until we get an affirmative decision on getting these bill done -- getting these bills done. what is perplexing is that both senators say they support these bills. they have their names written on the bill. they just did not define a mechanism to get them based on some rules that have been modified on many occasions, modified to elect supreme court justice, -- justices, modified to deal with budget issues, modified several times. so, it would seem likely improbable, and those of us who understand understand that this
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is the most critical issue, i believe, of our time, in terms of preserving democracy. democracy is on the brink of being dismantled. we all know. and yes, there are senators who are standing in the way. my dad and his team tend so many others, it was, there were always dark times, it felt like things were not going to change. but then, something miraculously occurred and that is almost where we are, we need something miraculous to occur to get this legislation done. jonathan: in terms of something miraculous happening, do you think that either of those senators can be convinced to change their mind? senator sinema and senator manchin are both out there saying no, not going to change the filibuster.
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you haven't had a chance to talk to senator sinema, but you have had opportunity, as you said, to talk with senator manchin. in your conversations with him, whether one or many with senator manchin, do you have the feeling, or do you think he could change his mind? martin: there is always an opportunity for people to change their minds. and there is nothing more powerful and all the world, as victor hugo said, than an idea whose time has come. i would not ever just say, conventional wisdom would say this is a done deal, it is just not going to happen. there is going to be a vote. there is going to be a reckoning. at that point, anything could happen. we have seen it in sports analogies from time to time, we have seen it all over the place.
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and my father and his team saw it over and over when they thought, my gosh, we are not going to get relief and all of a sudden, something happened. that is the spirit i come to this scenario with, even knowing that it looks like the door could be closed. it may look like that, but we will never give up, we will never give in and we will never give out. we have to continue to fight for these rights. jonathan: taylor branch in his trilogy on the civil rights movement, the first one, "parting the waters," everything you are saying is outlined in detail in that book, the highs and the lows and moments when your father and reverend abernathy and young john lewis thought this is it, this is the end, something happened to propel things. one thing we haven't talked
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about is the silence among republicans. and it is notable because in 2006, senate republicans, all of them, joined with senate democrats, all of them, to vote unanimously to reauthorize the voting rights act of 1965. president george w. bush, republican, not only signed it into law, but held an event on the south lawn of the white house to dramatize the moment. reverend sharpton was here yesterday and he brought that up, and also pointed out he was there, invited by karl rove, the president's chief strategist, to be there in the front row. i get today, 15 of those republicans who were part of the folks who voted for the reauthorization in 2006 continue to serve in the senate today and won't even give their vote to
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allow for the freedom of vote act and the john lewis voting rights advancement act even get a debate. no one is asking them to vote for the bill, just vote to allow for a debate. why do you think the republican party has gone from being champions of voting rights, recognizing how important they are to american democracy, but also to our nation, to silence pick -- to silence? jonathan: all i can do is speculate. because that makes no sense. it started because of the big lie the president told. and he has convinced his supporters, or at least they want to embrace the lot. -- embrace the lie. a significant number of republicans believe the election was stolen, and echoes to where
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we are. and republican officials will ultimately cater to what they believe their voters are saying. i believe it all falls on the shoulders of what the former president was saying and is continuing to say, to this day. beyond that, this makes no sense. the fact is, they have made this a partisan issue. voting is a nonpartisan issue. we are not going out telling people who to vote for. we are just saying make it easy, make it very easy for everyone to be able to cast their votes. that is what democracy is supposed to be about. and the sad part is, these same people go all over the world and we as a nation go all over the world promoting and doubting democracy. but yet we have the gall to suppress democracy at home. you know, that is beyond hypocritical.
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i don't like to be negative, but the actions of republicans are beyond -- they are unconscionable and hypocritical, that anyone would be involved in standing of the way of a process that makes it possible and easy for any and every legitimate citizen of our nation to vote. jonathan: you said that, correct me if i am wrong, that you liked the president's speech, you wished it had happened earlier. would that have made a difference? martin: i don't know, i don't think there is any way to say for sure. but i just believe this is such a critical issue, even for himself as a president. because we know the midterm elections are coming conventional wisdom says one
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thing and people are chomping at the fit, the way some of the lines have been drawn in certain congressional districts in our state, and many other states could make the map drawing so difficult that it makes it difficult for the democratic party to maintain its majority. even as it relates to the senatorial elections, both of these houses could potentially be in jeopardy. that is why this issue is so important. no one knows what voters are going to do for sure. we know what the polling is saying, but we don't know what voters are going to do when it comes to election day. but the issue is, we should make it easy for everyone to vote. we should not be making it harder. that is what these legislators,
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these republican legislators, arguing and none of these bills that are making it hard to vote in these 19 states have been bipartisan. they have been all republican. it is interesting you have this dual standard. jonathan: to say the least. there is a palpable anger at the white house and at the democratic party among voting rights activists over the previous lack of action. my friend charles blow, columnist that "the new york times" and his calm about the speech said biden has been dillydallying on getting filibusters to protect voting rights for essentially his whole administration, until this week. there were georgia voting rights
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activists who put out a letter saying they are not going to it and calling on the president not to,. the point was, they did not want to be used as props. they have seen this movie before. they have a point? martin: yeah, in fact, i certainly understand. we continue to talk, all of us, because we need to be working together. we spoke with cliff albright and others who chose not to show up. i understand the strategy. i empathize, but i believe there are those who had or needed to be able to hear what the president is saying. you always need to be in dialogue, even if everyone is not in dialogue. the goal is for us all to always
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be in dialogue with the white house. but if everybody is not able to be, we are all on the same page in terms of getting voting rights done. so, sometimes, you have to challenge even those who are your friends. and we also have to challenge our adversaries. some would say enemies, i am going to say adversaries, because we are almost at a boiling or tipping point and if we are using inflammatory language, we may not ever, and i am talking about on the opposite side, republicans specifically, we may not ever be able to dialogue. but my dad spoke to every president that was in power when he was in leadership, president eisenhower and vice president nixon, president kennedy and vice president johnson, he spoke
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to each administration and would continue doing that. and i think we always have to be doing that. in fact, i tempted to speak to president-elect trump on the king holiday about these things. ironically, it was the same issue. we were talking about voting back then and he was interested in fraud. we were talking about voter suppression and yet, were not able to make progress. we have to keep fighting these issues and we are not going to give up, we are not going to give out, we are not going to give in. jonathan: how concerned are you that that palpable anger that i talked about will find its way to the ballot box in november in the form of lower turnout. martin: in the african-american community, and maybe in the lack
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and brown community and indigenous -- black and brown committed to end indigenous come all these communities have felt left out for a long long time. and many of these communities in a significant way were able to participate in 2020. there is no george floyd legislation moving that we are aware of at this moment. voting rights are not moving that we are aware of at this point. so, the question is, how do you engage in to get people involved? there may be indigenous rights that need to be addressed. i don't ever want to leave out those people who were here before any of us, and get we mistreat them every day and that is unacceptable. so, all of this has to be dealt with. but when people think that they are rights are not being protected and preserved, they have a tendency to say, i am just not going to participate because this isn't going to
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change anything. we have to change that mindset, by the way, because every election, we must be involved at the highest level. and it is a tough task when you go see some victories coming along. jonathan: i have to talk about your father's legacy. sidney poitier, we lost him last week at age 94. he was close in age to your father, who tomorrow would have turned 90 three. reflecting on the contributions of that generation of civil rights and cultural leaders who fought racial justice despite all the obstacles and barriers in their way? martin: i think these men and women who stood tall, sidney poitier looked -- worked closely with my dad directly and indirectly, harry belafonte was
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a very close friend of dad, and mom as well. these individuals made phenomenal contributions throughout their lives and continued to personify what we as a nation honor. they represent the best of pushing our nation forward, whether it was financial support, whether it was physically being there is those two gentlemen were, harry belafonte, all the time. sidney poitier was there when he was able to be, and was always there when it was about opening doors and trying to help. i cannot say enough about those men and women who were working so tirelessly to make sure that our nation would move forward. now, we are not where we need to be, but i am excited about this younger generation that is
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coming along, including our daughter. i am so excited about the young activists, young women engaged in the women's movement, young men and women who are engaged in gun rights and the environment and so many issues. my point is, while elected officials who are older might think, we will get to this point, these young people are knocking to let us stay where we are. we as a nation are going to move forward, some way, somehow. jonathan: i have a question about your daughter in a moment, but what would your father make of this time we are in? all of the things that animated his activism and oratory remain, and a lot of the gains he helped achieve have been eroded or eliminated.
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martin: dad would be most disappointed in our political leadership, in terms of the way they have chosen to go in relationship to positions that are going backward, not forward. but he would be greatly supportive of many things that have happened as a result of lack lives matter. -- black lives matter. the media wants you to think all these demonstrations have been violent and over 89% of it nonviolent and positive with young people standing up. he would be so proud of the young people, greatly disappointed in the leadership right now in terms of stalling where our nation should be going. one of the things none of us could have predicted even though it has been stated by many is the impact of what a pandemic has on our nation and the fact
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that people are waking up not knowing if they are going to be all right from a health and safety perspective. that dynamic creates a lot of things in terms of our mental health and other things, and for it to keep lingering and people still don't know, it is not something we can predict how that is going to shake out. but we do know that we have overcome so many things. and so this, too, we must overcome. jonathan: you mentioned yolanda renee kang, your doctor. she told the post, "my grandmother said every generation has to earn its freedom, but i want my generation to secure freedom for all those who come after
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us."that is grown up talking she is only 13 years old. she never knew there -- she never knew her historic grandparents. how much of your parents do you see in your daughter? martin: gosh, i see a significant amount of them in her. when i was 13, i had spoken at a rally, but i certainly did not have the depth she has in terms of understanding the issues of our day, and wanting to speak out on them and be a leader not a follower. so, she is a combination of her grandmother and her grandfather and i might add on my wife's side, her grandparents as well. my mother-in-law was the first african-american nurse in her community, and she had to deal
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with patients who were like, we don't want to be treated by a black nurse. and she continued to do it and she was decorated as being one of the most outstanding nurses in our nation. i think yolanda gets it from both sides, and we are so blessed. we don't push her, by the way. we don't tell her, you got to do this, this legacy is important. when she was two or three years old, she was trying to figure out, wire are these people on the street homeless, can we do something to help them? i want to buy a mansion so i can house these people. so, this is in her spirit, her dna, and we are grateful and thankful and feel so blessed to have a daughter who is interested in social justice. jonathan: since you are considerably older than 13 and have been through these battles, what do you say to your daughter
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and what do you say to young activists about their activism and how they should go forward, especially when they are just starting to learn that victories don't come in linear fashion? >>martin: what i always tell yolanda as there is a long view in a short view. some are going to take a lot longer. but the most important thing is we can never give up. and she already has that. i say that to young people all the time. but you are doing is changing the world. all the things that you all have done. you have to look at a short period of time. we have made great progress. although we certainly have not made enough, we have a long way to go, but we will continue to make progress if you all continue in that tradition. jonathan: martin luther king iii, chair of the drum major
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institute, thank you for coming to washington post live. jonathan: thank you. thank you for your leadership every week on your show and all that you write about. jonathan: thank you very much, sir. and thank you for joining us. please head to to register and find more information about all of our upcoming programs. i'm jonathan cave art, >> c-span's "washington journal." every day we take your calls live on the air on the news of the day and discuss policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning, we discussed how school systems are using covid-19 relief funds with education. in our spotlight on podcast segment, the cohost of know your
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enemy talks about his podcast, described as a guide to the conservative movement. watch "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span and c-span now, our new mobile app. join the discussion with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages and tweets. >> 2022 is shaping up to be a great year for nasa, with two missions underway. first, double asteroid redirection test will test the agency's ability to defend earth against asteroids. the second, the web telescope will be used to study the origins of the adverse and search for possible life beyond earth. sunday night on q&a, we will discuss those missions.
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and meredith mcgregor from the aversive colorado. >> that is not new. it is happened in the past, it will happen in the future. there is no greater threat to the earth right now than asteroid -- there's nothing on course to hit the earth right now. we haven't found all the asteroid yet. this is an important part of planetary defense. take the first set enabled to be ready before you need it. >> you can point at an object and get new data. i know i'm the first person to ever see this. you can't predict what you will find. some of the most exciting science results they're going to come out of webb are things i'm not even sure i can tell you right now. >> planetary saw just --
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planetary scientist on q&a. you can listen to q&a and all our podcasts on our new c-span now app. >> next week, live on the c-span networks. congress returns on tuesday. the senate will begin debate on voting rights legislation and may try to change filibuster rules to pass the bill. members may take up a bill on coronavirus aid for public schools. on wednesday at 10:00 eastern on c-span3, the u.s. supreme court hears oral arguments in the federal election commission the ted cruz for senate on whether the senator's campaign consume -- whether these federal restrictions violate the first amendment. at 2:00 eastern, house armed services committee on the prosecution of sexual assault
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and harassment in the national guard. at their sand 10:00 on c-span3, the agriculture secretary tom vilsack testifies on the state of the rural economy. head over to for scheduling information or to stream video live run demand any time. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. >> at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. here many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon b. johnson. we will hear about the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly nonsense secretaries new -- johnson
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sachar -- johnson's secretaries new. there were the ones who made sure the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you will also hear someone talk. -- some blunt talk. >> the number assigned me now. i will stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span out mobile app or wherever you get your podcast. ♪ >> american history tv, saturday on c-span two. exploring the people and events that tell the american story.
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on the presidency, to programs about how presidents influence the early space race. the role of president dwight eisenhower's administration and the creation of nasa. the book mercury rising, john glenn, john kennedy and the new battle of the cold war. a discussion on the history of the filibuster in american politics with the national constitution center. exploring the american story. watch american history tv saturdays on c-span2 and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online anytime at in 2013, then sent leader harry reid pushed forward a change to senate rules made easier to approve president obama's nominees.
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to reduce the threshold from 60 votes to 51 votes for senate approval of judicial nominees. back in 2013, 3 democrats voted against changing rules, including senator joe manchin. on tuesday, current senate majority leader chuck schumer will bring a voting rights package to the floor. here's a look back at the senate filibuster debate in 2013, before and after the book took place. >> the american people believe congress is broken. the american people believe the senate is broken. i believe the american people are right. during this congress, the united states has wasted an unprecedented amount of time on procedural -- and person destruction. obstruction. the


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