Saturday, May 12, 2012

Voting Rights

One reason we need people like John Lewis in Congress is to remind us of our history. Here is a video from a couple of days ago in which Lewis denounces a proposed amendment to de-fund Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"People died for the right to vote," John Lewis reminds us. Friends of his. Current efforts in a number of states, and in Congress, to make it more difficult to vote represent an affront to this history, and a reversal of the progress we have made toward opening up the political process to full participation by all citizens. It is because of those efforts to restrict the ability to vote that Section 5 is still needed.

There should be no mistake about this. People are not trying to de-fund enforcement of the Voting Rights Act because this funding is unnecessary and antiquated. They are doing it because they have found that efforts to enact new barriers to the ability to vote are running up against federal enforcement. In other words, they are trying to de-fund Section 5 precisely because it is still working the way it was meant to work.

To his credit, Representative Broun immediately withdrew his proposal in the face of Lewis's objection, and apologized for giving offense.


  1. This last week of articles have been interesting and informative. Too many progressives and those on the far right do not openly carry their deeply felt agendas. Good on you.

    In your view, is conservatism based in bigotry?

  2. I would not say that conservatism is based in bigotry, but I would say that even old-fashioned Edmund Burke style conservatism, because of its respect for tradition and fear of the new, can lend itself to bigotry. And I would also say that a lot of modern-day conservatives came to conservatism by way of bigotry. For example, people who are not happy with equal rights for non-whites became conservatives, and a lot of people who want to scapegoat immigrants or poor people for our problems also tend to be conservatives.

  3. << I would also say that a lot of modern-day conservatives came to conservatism by way of bigotry.>>

    It is a tiny minority on both sides that act insanely. I agree we should rail on them, but most Dems and Repubs want nothing to do with the 10% of progressives or far right kooks. If I were a progressive I would be trying to cut some independants and Repubs away to vote Dem. The anger and vitriol and generalizing is startling. The closer we get to election the stranger the conversations on both sides.

    It looks like many progressives care more about Obama being re-elected than how they do it. Example, the discussion on gay marriage and your post "Why Now". It looks like you saw a way for him get elected over a way to do the right thing. The right does it too.

    Chicago cop "pie plate" badges come to mind. Bought and paid for. My way or the highway and once we get my way than I will do it better than the other guy.

  4. I cross-posted that piece about gay marriage on Daily Kos, and included a poll asking what Obama should do (this turned out to be the day before he came out for gay marriage). The choices were (1) support gay marriage even if doing so would cost Obama the election, (2) support gay marriage only if that would not hurt Obama politically, or (3) stay away from the issue entirely. Interestingly (and remember that is a pretty far left community) the votes were almost evenly divided, with the largest number voting for the second choice. Idealistic, but pragmatic also.

  5. Thanks for that feedback. Sadly, you confirm my pie plate badge point about the far left and far right. As David Byrne wrote "same as it ever was".

  6. It's not about the far left and the far right. It's just about politics. During the Civil War era, abolitionists saw no way to compromise on the issue of slavery, and only one correct, moral answer to the problem. Slavery had to be abolished, period. And they were right. But Lincoln famously said, if I can save the Union by freeing all of the slaves I would do it. But if I can save the Union by freeing none of the slaves I would do that. And if I can save the Union by freeing only some of the slaves I would do that. And Lincoln was even more right than the abolitionists.

    That's politics. There is a place for idealism, but there is an even bigger place for pragmatism.

    My answer to my poll question would have been number 2 also. No way should Obama sacrifice his entire presidency over one issue, important as that issue might be. So when I analyze the issue of whether Obama should speak out about gay marriage, the truth is that all I really care about is whether he is going to lose too many votes in swing states like Ohio and North Carolina. Fortunately, it is starting to look like what Obama did was probably both the morally right thing as well as the politically right thing.

  7. My view, if you were not so focused on re-election you might understand that the morally right thing is the politically right thing.

  8. Sometimes people support the morally right thing. I wish that were always true. In this case, it's probably too soon to tell.