In 2032 I will, God willing, turn 69. The data used to determine which states need special monitoring for racial discrimination in voting will turn 68 -- making it more than old enough to collect social security if that program still exists.
That is why today's knee-jerk renewal of certain provisions of that law is an absurd act of political cowardice by the House of Representatives.
The House yesterday easily approved an extension of key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, after GOP leaders quelled a rebellion within the party's Southern ranks that threatened to become a political embarrassment.
Before the 390 to 33 vote to extend the measure for a quarter-century, the House defeated four amendments that would have diluted two expiring provisions and possibly derailed final passage before the November congressional elections. With the House hurdle now cleared, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he hoped to bring the extension to the Senate floor before the August recess.
The act's temporary provisions do not expire until next year, but Republican leaders had hoped that early action would earn goodwill from minority voters as members of Congress head into a brutally competitive fall campaign season.
"Today, Republicans and Democrats have united in a historic vote to preserve and protect one of America's most important fundamental rights -- the right to vote," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Wrong, Mr. Speaker. Democrats and Republicans have become a sleuth of pander-bears. These provisions were meant to expire in 1970, and use data that is woefully outdated to limit the effective coverage of the act to only a few states.
It seems clear that some members of Congress have been in hibernation for the last four decades.
In urging adoption of the act, Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, recalled marching on Bloody Sunday, a turning point in the movement for black voting rights in 1965, when the police in Selma, Ala., beat 600 civil rights demonstrators.
"I gave blood," Mr. Lewis said, his voice rising, as he stood alongside photographs of the clash. "Some of my colleagues gave their very lives."
"Yes, we've made some progress; we have come a distance," he added. "The sad truth is, discrimination still exists. That's why we still need the Voting Rights Act, and we must not go back to the dark past."
Fine, I can accept some sort of renewal of these provisions of the VRA. But none of these provisions is about turning the clock back four decades. Indeed, one of the defeated amendments (opposed by Democrats as a killer amendment) would have targetted voting issues as they exist TODAY, not back when I was still an infant.
A second amendment, offered by Rep. Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. (R-Ga.), would have made every district potentially subject to the pre-clearance requirement, by including any jurisdiction where voter turnout fell below 50 percent in a presidential election. It would have eased the pre-clearance requirement for jurisdictions with voter turnout above 50 percent in three consecutive presidential elections, presuming that no court had found that discriminatory voting practices were employed. The measure failed 318 to 96.
Wow -- considering voter turnout in elections taking place TODAY was labelled as being against civil right. Applying the law to what happened in 2004 and what will happen in 2008 is not as important as correcting what happened in the election when Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater. Good grief -- would you accept the advice of a doctor who shunned MRIs and CAT scans and stuck strictly to old-fashioned x-rays because that was what he learned in medical school back in the 1960s? Of course not! Then why engage in the illogically absurd practice of using antiquated measures to determine racial discrimination -- and demand that they continue to be used for another quarter century?
Even suggesting that the renewal be done for a decade rather than a quarter century was labelled as a poison pill. Never mind that those who wrote these provisions thought it sufficient that they expire after five years -- now, four decades later, anything less than an extension of 25 years is tantamount to repealing the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
I've expressed my frustration over this issue a number of times in the past. I'm not persuaded by anything I've read today. Far from being a profile in courage, the blind renewal of these provisions of the VRA is a profile in political and moral cowardice.
Here's hoping the Senate has the backbone either to make the Voting Rights Act relevant to the problems that exist today or to allow these provisions to expire as their authors intended them to do.
OPEN TRACKBACKING TO: Stuck on Stupid, Uncooperative Blogger, Echo9er, Pursuing Holiness, Adam's Blog, Bloggin' Outloud, Third World County, Bullwinkle Blog, Bacon Bits, Samantha Burns, Blue Star Chronicles, Conservative Cat, Stop the ACLU. Wizbang