Joe Madison, a radio host with a show on Sirius XM Urban View, announced Nov. 8 that he will not eat solid food until, as he put it, “Congress passes, and President Biden signs, the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
A hunger strike is a venerable tool of political activism. In medieval Ireland, a wronged person would fast on the doorstep of the offender. If such a protestor died, the resident of that home was dishonored, and was expected to pay compensation to the family of the deceased.
A more recent example: ten Irish republicans died in prison in Northern Ireland in 1981, having starved themselves to death protesting what they saw as illicit British occupation of the northern region of that island. Their specific demand was that members of the IRA held in Northern Ireland should be treated as political prisoners, not criminals.
Hunger strikers rarely survive beyond 70 days. Bobby Sands, the leader of the 1981 strike, died after 66 days.
The Thing to Know:
Each of the two voting rights bills that Madison referenced has passed the House of Representatives. Each has been filibustered in the Senate, where only 40 votes are needed to prevent a vote.