With drama and fury, President Joe Biden declared to the nation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that state laws requiring voter ID or banning mass mailing of absentee ballots amounted to an "assault on our freedom to vote," especially for minority Americans.
Four days earlier, a poll in Michigan told a different story: Three-quarters of the battleground state voters supported ballot ID requirements, with black voters expressing the highest support at 79%.
Those findings have been confirmed in national polls as well, exposing a dilemma for Democrats in Washington who are making a last-ditch effort to pass legislation gutting many state and local controls of elections in favor of federal standards.
Those standards — like banning voter IDs, imposing no excuse absentee voting and making it harder to clean outdated voter rolls — are not what the majority of Americans are seeking.
"A recent national survey found that four key election reforms are supported by more than 80% of voters," pollster Scott Rasmussen recently wrote in an article highlighting the disconnect. "These include removing people who have died or moved from voter registration lists; requiring all voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot; wanting all ballots received by Election Day; and, having all voting machines made in the United States."
In Rasmussen's latest national poll on the issue, 78% of African-American voters supported voter ID.
Such public sentiments impose a harsh reality check on Biden's argument that state voter laws amount to "Jim Crow 2.0" and are disenfranchising poor and minority voters. Most voters don't see cleaning outdated names from voter roles or requiring IDs to cast ballots as "obstacles to the ballot box" like Biden argued in Monday’s speech.
The polling may also help to explain why several centrist Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, and Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona are resisting efforts to change the Senate's filibuster rule so that Democratic voting legislation can pass with a simple majority and not the 60 votes currently required.
"Elections take place at the local level, in a decentralized way, because, number one, that is where you have transparency, that's where you have familiarity," former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell told Just the News. "That's where you where you have buy-in. And if you start to take it away from states and localities, you run the risk of the same clown car that has driven this constitutional republic to a disastrous edge.
"I will just say, quoting one of the historic figures, Thomas Paine, those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it," added Blackwell, Ohio's first black Republican elections chief. "That is what we now are seeing across this country. People are, in fact, resisting this stupidity."
Robert Woodson, a civil rights icon of the 1960s who has argued for more conservative, market-based solutions for black America in recent decades, said the disconnect between Democrats and the black community extends beyond voter ID to issues like defunding the police and is being driven by a small group of vocal elitists.
"If you just look at the numbers, 80% of blacks polled are against defunding the police, 60% polled do not believe that racial discrimination today is a principal barrier for them to have a successful life," Woodson told Just the News in a recent TV interview.
"And so it's really a small percentage of elites, both black and white progressives, who are pushing this fake narrative," Woodson added. "And they're being aided and abetted by the mainstream press who refuses to ask the critical questions. And it's really unfortunate that black lives are being sacrificed in order to get black votes. It's all political."
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate right now, said in an interview published Monday that most people reject Biden's comparisons of today's voting legislation opponents to the segregationists of the past.
"To compare or conflate people who oppose his positions as being racists and traitors to the country is not only insulting and infuriating, it's dead wrong," Scott told the Associated Press. "All you have to do is know the facts, and you realize that the president wasn't misleading us only, he was actually fibbing to us, in order to amass political power — basically lying to us."
Biden's decision to use the King holiday as the backdrop to push his voting legislation exposed another rift: There isn't even agreement within the late civil rights leader's own family about the need for the legislation.
King's son, Martin Luther King III, joined Biden for Monday's push for the legislation, saying his father rejected arguments a half century ago that equality couldn't be furthered by one-party legislation.
"They told him he had to change hearts first," the younger King told the crowd. "And he worked hard at that. After all, he was a Baptist preacher. But he knew that when someone is denying you your fundamental rights, conversation and optimism won't get you very far."
But Alveda King, MLK's niece, has relentlessly attacked the Biden-backed legislation as the "Freedom to Cheat Act" that will increase the risk of election fraud while scolding the president for practicing racially divisive politics.
"It is grotesquely offensive to compare segregated lunch counters, attack dogs, firehoses, and Bull Connor to showing a photo ID to vote," she said in a joint statement with Blackwell last week. "Simply proving you are who you say you are to cast a ballot is fundamental to election security."