Is The South Still Racist?

Cross posted at RedState.

Are southern states still the embodiment of racism? Do majority white legislatures in the old Confederacy and certain counties throughout the nation intentionally or subconsciously go out of their way to discriminate against minorities? Should the members of the old Confederacy still, after more than 140 years, be presumed guilty of racism until proven innocent? These are questions that Congress is going to have to answer between now and 2007.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is at the crux of this. In 1965, Congress, with the help of Republicans, passed the VRA and, in Section 5, required that members of the old Confederacy and certain other areas of the country preclear any issue relating to elections with the U.S. Department of Justice. If, for example, a town wants to move a precinct voting location over two blocks, the town must obtain approval from the Justice Department before making the move. Section 5 was a temporary section, but in 1982 Congress extended it for 25 years. Calling the right to vote a “crown jewel” of American liberty, President Reagan signed the extension.

Time is up for Section 5 in 2007. Already race baiters and liberal academics are gearing up to fight for reauthorization. According to the Mobile Register, Jesse Jackson, marching in Selma, said, “[the United States] ha[s] not yet reached the voter protection system afforded to Iraqis.” The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is already campaigning for renewal of Section 5.

Interestingly, lefty groups and “civil rights” organizations are hiding behind the abolition of racism for keeping Section 5, but, at a deeper level, apparently fear that getting rid of Section 5 would hurt the Democrats because so many black voters vote for Democrats. Lucky for them, they can call everyone who opposes extending Section 5 racist, while the pro-Section 5 crowd is generally composed of rabidly partisan Democrats. Representative Phil King, the head of Texas’s redistricting committee in 2003, said in a deposition involving Texas’s redistricting, that he would have drawn a plan even more favorable to Republicans had Section 5 not constrained him. The Democrats see the writing on the wall.

Notwithstanding Democrat Civil Rights Groups’ fears, there is some body of thought that Section 5 helped Republicans take over Congress in 1994. With black voters in the South marching in lock step with the Democratic party and the growing number of white voters supporting the GOP, state legislatures were forced to draw majority minority districts that weakened Democratic strength in non-majority minority districts. Had black Democrats not been corralled into districts where they were the majority, their voting strength could have been spread out into districts that were only borderline Republican. (I know the argument, but my googling has left me without any links to prior pieces I’ve read on this).

Whether Section 5 helps Democrats or Republicans, we must ask ourselves if it is still needed? Are the reasons that precipitated Section 5 still present in our country and, if they are, why are they and what can be done to finally end the need for laws like Section 5? The left is gearing up for this battle and they intend to tar and feather as racist anyone who stands in their way. It remains to be seen if Republicans will be willing to go along with the left and keep the “racist” label on the South. Though the sky will always be falling for Jesse Jackson & Co., it just might be time to admit the United States has reached a point where Section 5 is not needed and racial problems at the polls can be solved in ways that do not make whole geographic regions of the United State guilty of racism until proven innocent.

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Erick Erickson

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