A Reminder or Two About What Happened During the 2006 Voting Rights Act Reauthorization:
Reminder 1: In 2006, the renewal of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years passed the Senate by 98 to 0. That's how uncontroversial it was. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Republicans from Texas, voted for it. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both Republicans from Alabama, voted for it. The bill they voted for contained the section that the Supreme Court struck down today. Were these conservatives wrong? Did they make a grave error in judgment? Hell, the case itself, Shelby County v. Holder, came from Alabama. Did Shelby and Sessions betray their state?
Sure, they had their troubles with the bill, especially the preclearance of new voting laws by the U.S. Justice Department in Section 5. But they could put those aside to vote for what they saw as an unimpeachable good. As Sessions said, "Although the Voting Rights Act is now 40 years old, many of my constituents have vivid recollections of discrimination at the ballot box, and they have strong memories of the civil rights movement that led to the most historic changes that were encapsulated in the Voting Rights Act. These are wonderful people. They love America and are proud of the changes in Alabama and our Nation. They have a strong attachment to the Voting Rights Act. All Alabamians want to see the progress continue. In light of the wrongs that have occurred in the past and out of respect for those who placed their very lives at risk for change, I will vote in favor of H.R. 9."
Upon its passage, Senator Mitch McConnell beamed, "America's history is a story of ever-increasing freedom, hope and opportunity for all. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 represents one of this country's greatest steps forward in that story. Today I am pleased the Senate reaffirmed that our country must continue its progress towards becoming a society in which every person, of every background, can realize the American Dream. With the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, we are recommitting ourselves to that Dream."
Indeed, you could find unanimous praise from conservatives, from moderate to nutzoid, in the Congress. The House had passed it 390-33, with a few southerners predictably uncomfortable voting for it.
Reminder 2: When he proudly signed it, President George W. Bush spoke on the necessity of the law: "In four decades since the Voting Rights Act was first passed, we've made progress toward equality, yet the work for a more perfect union is never ending. We'll continue to build on the legal equality won by the civil rights movement to help ensure that every person enjoys the opportunity that this great land of liberty offers. And that means a decent education and a good school for every child, a chance to own their own home or business, and the hope that comes from knowing that you can rise in our society by hard work and God-given talents." And he promised, "Today, we renew a bill that helped bring a community on the margins into the life of American democracy. My administration will vigorously enforce the provisions of this law, and we will defend it in court."
The majority in the Supreme Court today acted as if the Congress took nothing into consideration and merely rubberstamped the act as "Good until 2031." Actually, there were numerous hearings taking into account everything that the Supreme Court said ought to be taken into account.
Now that the Congress has devolved to the point of no return, you can bet that it'll be willing to say, "Yeah, we were wrong back when we did something right. Let's not do that again."