Trump's rhetoric -- so discordant with where many Americans are headed on issues of race -- was a reminder that despite mass demonstrations in cities across America and signs of change within big corporations to show that Black lives matter, there have been very few tangible signs of progress on civil rights at the federal level since the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day.
The kinds of policies that Lewis fought for during his 33 years in Congress — voting rights, desegregation in housing and efforts to curb the disproportionate use of police brutality against Black Americans — have run headlong into the intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President's refusal to lead on issues of racial justice.
As Americans remember Lewis, who repeatedly risked his life in the name of progress on racism and prejudice, they also face a choice — to stand by passively and allow this moment of cultural change to evaporate or to demand action from their leaders, who risk a rebuke at the polls in November.
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Despite Republican praise Saturday for Lewis, a 17-term Democratic congressman from Georgia, McConnell has refused to bring up for a vote legislation that would restore a key part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. The House passed the measure in December with just one Republican vote. Meanwhile, Trump routinely tweets false information about mail-in voting as Republicans back restrictive voter identification laws around the country.
Collapsing in the polls as he battles Joe Biden in his reelection campaign, Trump has settled on a strategy of defending the statues of racist Confederate generals and rolling back Obama-era fair housing regulations, using racist rhetoric and appeals to "the suburbs."
At the same time, the President has continued denying the threat of the deadly coronavirus, while ignoring the way it has disproportionately devastated Black communities.
Lewis abhorred those sorts of tactics and warned Trump against standing in the way of racial progress. One of his most memorable final acts was gaveling in the final vote of the House on the voting rights legislation in December, but it has since languished in the Senate on McConnell's desk.
That became a flash point Saturday after McConnell tweeted that the Senate and the nation are mourning the loss of "a pioneering civil rights leader who put his life on the line to fight racism, promote equal rights, and bring our nation into greater alignment with its founding principles."
California Sen. Kamala Harris, a top Democratic contender to be Biden's running mate, shot back that if McConnell "really wanted to really honor the life, legacy, and activism of John Lewis, he'd bring the Voting Rights Act immediately to the Senate floor for a vote and name it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who, with Harris, co-authored the r