A Bad Place To Be

How Judges and Legislators Twisted and Warped The Voting Rights Act
The New Republic
February 16, 2010

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 “was one of the great moments in the history of American democracy” and “the death knell of the Jim Crow South.” Over the years, however, it has been twisted into an engine of racial rigging and polarization. This has been accomplished by misguided judges, unwise and self-serving congressional Republicans (as well as Democrats), and liberal ideologues in civil rights groups and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Indeed, those forces have transformed the Voting Rights Act into “a brake on true racial progress today.”

That is the essence of the story told by Abigail Thernstom in her meticulously researched and forcefully argued book. President Obama’s success in winning white votes has completed the proof that the white racism which the sixty-four-year-old law was designed to combat has become a marginal factor in American politics. And the Voting Rights Act, which has come to be little more than a racial gerrymandering machine, has become “a barrier to greater integration” of our politics. Yes, we still have glaring racial inequalities rooted in our history of slavery and racism. About this there can be no doubt. But “the caste system that originally justified taking race into account in structuring elections is gone,” Thernstrom concludes, and “further progress demands that we now cease to take race into account.”

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