Progressives are remarkably uninterested in progress. Social Security is 78 years old, and myriad social improvements have added 17 years to life expectancy since 1935, yet progressives insist the program remain frozen, like a fly in amber. Medicare is 48 years old, and the competence and role of medicine have been transformed since 1965, yet progressives cling to Medicare “as we know it.” And they say that the Voting Rights Act, another 48-year-old, must remain unchanged, despite dramatic improvements in race relations.
The question concerning which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday was whether Section 5 of the act is still constitutional, given the disappearance of the conditions that once made it acceptable as a temporary and emergency truncation of states’ sovereignty under federalism. In 2008, two years after the fourth renewal of the act, Barack Obama won a higher percentage of the white vote than did Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Today Mississippi has more black elected officials — not more per capita, more — than any other state. Yet defenders of the continuing necessity of Section 5 merely shrug about the fact that race is no longer a barrier to either the nation’s highest office or to state and local offices in what once was the state most emblematic of resistance to racial equality.
And there we have it. "How can there be disenfranchisement when we have a black President and black people getting elected in Mississippi?" Gosh, I dunno. Maybe the part where we make voter ID laws a de facto poll tax? Maybe the part where Republicans actually opposed efforts to register more voters, or any effort to increase the number of voters in the US at all, because minorities who traditionally have been barred from voting by dint of long lines at urban polling stations, elimination of early and weekend voting, and faulty voting equipment are assumed to all be criminals anyway?
Will plows on, regardless.
Section 5 was enacted as a temporary response to many measures employed, primarily in the South, to disenfranchise minorities. It requires nine states and some jurisdictions in others to get federal permission — “pre-clearance” — for even minor changes in voting procedures. It has been extended four times, most recently in 2006 for 25 years. The 2006 House vote was 390 to 33, the Senate vote was 98 to 0; obviously, the political class’s piety about the act has extinguished thought about its necessity. But one reason for judicial review — for active judicial engagement in the protection of constitutional rights and arrangements — is that the political class, with its majoritarian temptations, cannot be trusted to do so.
Hey, that's Wario Scalia's argument. Will buys it wholesale. After decades of bitching about Congress not being able to agree on anything and not being able to come together for overwhelming bipartisan support, when they came together to renew the Voting Rights Act with overwhelming bipartisan support , that just proves that overwhelming bipartisan support is awful and that you can't trust it. Why trust legislation to legislators? (Also see George F. Will on why you can't trust the executive to execute, which is to say any of his columns on our "imperial President" over the last four years.) But hey, let's just have the Supreme Court make endless 5-4 decisions on turning America into a right-wing utopia, that's a real governance system, dammit.
In 1982, Section 2 of the act was amended to say that the measure is violated whenever nomination and election processes “are not equally open to participation” by minority voters. And equality of participation is said to be denied whenever minority voters “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to . . . elect representatives of their choice.” And representatives “of their choice” has been construed to mean representatives who are members of the same minority. This expresses two tenets of progressivism’s racialism. One is identity politics: Your race is your political identity. The other is categorical representation: Members of a race can be understood and represented only by members of this race. By this reasoning the Voting Rights Act has become an instrument for what Roberts has hitherto called “a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”
Section 5 is racism because African-Americans voting for African-Americans is racism, and liberals are racist for allowing it to continue. As usual, the rich white guy has now made the call that racism is over, and that anyone who still believes this "racist remedy" is necessary is a racist. Because George F. Will says so!
Seriously, at this point the barbarous ancient relic in this article is George F. Will, not Section 5.