Monday, August 3, 2015

2016 Dems Need a Mythical War on Voting Rights

When the Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965, America was a segregated nation. Many states, especially in the South, had discriminatory voting laws that worked to prevent African-Americans from voting. Despite furious opposition from the Jim Crow caucus within the Democratic Party, a bipartisan Congressional majority enacted the law. That began the process of redressing this historic injustice that was part of the unfinished legacy of the Civil War that had concluded a century earlier.
We’ve come a long way since then. Jim Crow is but an awful memory and blacks not only vote in most of the South at the same rates that whites do but also can look to a large Congressional Black Caucus whose existence is largely due to subsequent court interpretations of the Act that created minority-majority districts. But for the left, it’s always 1965 and a revival of Jim Crow is just around the corner. That’s the gist of the cover story of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, “A Dream Undone,” that takes it as a given that minority voting rights are not only under attack but about to disappear.
That this is palpably false is self-evident since efforts to single out blacks and prevent them from voting simply do not exist anywhere in the nation. Why then devote space to a nonexistent problem? 
The Times is singing from the Democratic Party hymnal heading into 2016 as Hillary Clinton attempts to scare African-American voters who are somewhat apathetic about her candidacy into turning out in the same numbers they did for Barack Obama. But if Democrats want to frighten their party’s base into thinking Jim Crow is on its way back, they’ll have to do better than arcane disputes about voter ID or early voting laws.
The conceit of Jim Rutenberg’s lengthy essay is that there is a clear continuum between the death rattle of the segregationists south that began to die in the early 1960s and today’s Republican Party.  One of the greatest victories of the struggle for Civil Rights was the way it transformed the white South from a bastion of racism to one in which racial equality was taken as a given Race exists as an issue in the America of 2015, but comparisons with 1965 aren’t merely misleading, they are flat out falsehoods. That is especially true in the South, where blacks vote and hold office in numbers that are largely commensurate with their share of the overall population.