Opening Argument - More Racial Gerrymanders

National Journal
May 13, 2006

When conservative Republicans such as House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist jointly sponsor Voting Rights Act amendments with such liberal Democrats as Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Edward Kennedy, be suspicious.

They are steamrollering through Congress bipartisan legislation to renew for the next 25 years a much-misunderstood, largely anachronistic provision (Section 5) of the Voting Rights Act, including amendments that are driven by racial-identity politics and that would aggravate ideological polarization.

The amendments would turn back the clock on racial progress by requiring even more racial gerrymandering of election districts than under current law. And the extension of Section 5, as currently drafted, would perpetuate an extraordinarily punitive oversight regime that gives to federal political appointees and not-exactly-apolitical bureaucrats at the Justice Department unreviewable power to dictate state and local election rules in nine (mostly Southern) states and some other jurisdictions.

Why would broad bipartisan majorities of House and Senate incumbents want to do that? To help themselves win re-election, for starters. More specifically, Democrats are pandering to the demands of black and Hispanic politicians for safe seats and to the ideological obsessions of the civil-rights lobby, which still sees America as so steeped in racism that whites just won't vote for minority candidates.

Never mind that Douglas Wilder, an African-American, was elected governor of Virginia in 1989; Bill Richardson, a Hispanic, was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002; Colin Powell might well have been elected president of the United States had he run in 1996; nine of the 34 Georgia officials elected statewide are black; and so on, and so on.