Thank you Chairman Whitehouse and Ranking Member Kennedy for the opportunity to testify today.

My name is Benjamin Todd Jealous. I am president of People For the American Way.

We are more than one million Americans dedicated to the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

Throughout my career as a community organizer, investigative reporter, and civil rights leader, I have been inspired by Supreme Court rulings that moved the country closer to the promise of equal justice.

That promise has been undermined by the pro-corporate activism of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts.

Today I…

The 2020 elections taught us that our democracy is both strong and fragile. This is the time to shore it up with the For the People Act that is now waiting for action by Congress.

Voters showed the strength of our democracy by showing up in record numbers to cast ballots to defeat an incumbent president. And voters in Georgia, led by Black voters, made history by electing a progressive Black preacher and Jewish filmmaker to the U.S. Senate.

What makes our democracy strong is that people spent years organizing and building the capacity to educate and motivate voters.

We…

Physics holds that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Something similar might be said of politics — although reactions to political change can come with a fury and intensity that belie the notion of “equal.” This is the case now as the country’s right-wingers respond to the election losses of 2020.

Last fall, record numbers of Americans cast votes to end the term of a divisive, corrupt and bigoted incumbent president. In Georgia, millions of citizens — led by Black voters — made history by electing Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, a progressive Black minister and…

And we also believe Virginia’s congressional members have a moral responsibility to do the same for Virginians and all Americans at the national level, by co-sponsoring and voting for House Resolution 1, the For the People Act.

This is a bill that would outlaw partisan, racial gerrymandering — the process of creating voting districts unfairly skewed toward one party or group. It would put a stop to voter suppression tactics like drastic purges of voter rolls and discriminatory voter ID laws. …

It is going to be a hard Christmas for many Americans. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is soaring. The virus is spreading faster than ever. Families and small business owners whose incomes have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic are being hurt by the U.S. Senate’s refusal to provide any relief since April.

This suffering is not shared equally. Black and brown people have been hit harder than other Americans by the pandemic in many ways. We get sicker and die more often. We have been hit harder by the economic fallout, too. …

Nobody needs to tell Black Americans that progress toward an inclusive democracy is often met with brutal resistance.

We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t “let nobody turn us ‘round.” And right now, we need to send that message to the people we put in power in the White House and Congress.

Our democracy survived former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. It survived the violent attack on Congress that Trump and his allies incited, which left five people dead and many more injured. …

It is going to be a hard Christmas for many Americans. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is soaring. The virus is spreading faster than ever. Families and small business owners whose incomes have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic are being hurt by the U.S. Senate’s refusal to provide any relief since April.

This suffering is not shared equally. Black and brown people have been hit harder than other Americans by the pandemic in many ways. We get sicker and die more often. We have been hit harder by the economic fallout, too. …

This hasn’t been a normal year, and it isn’t going to be a normal Thanksgiving.

Instead of looking forward to family and feasting, many of us are listening to health officials begging us to avoid large gatherings, and we’re weighing the risks against our deeply felt desire to be with our loved ones.

Let’s be honest: 2020 has been a brutal year.

Many are grieving the loss of loved ones. Many have lost jobs and businesses and the security they bring our families. Students and educators have had to learn and teach in new ways. …

Millions of Americans have come out in big cities and small towns to protest the killings of unarmed civilians — often Black people — at the hands of law enforcement. If we want our demands for justice and accountability to lead to real policy change, we need to build on that activism by electing public officials with the commitment to reform law enforcement and the courage to act when police abuse the power of their badge.

In presidential election years, most of the energy and focus goes to the top of the ticket. And that’s essential this year. But we…

By Ben Jealous

Republicans’ rush to fill the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat before the election is a terrible threat to Black people’s civil rights and the health of our communities.

In her 27 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of civil rights. During those same years, though, Republican presidents and senators moved the court further and further away from its duty to protect racial equity and the rights of working people.

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, we counted on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional principle…

Ben Jealous

President, People For the American Way. Visiting Scholar, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Former National President, NAACP.

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