The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was an effort to put some teeth behind the 15th Amendment to the constitution. Unfortunately, the 15th amendment was ignored for the first 95 years after it was passed, particularly in the South, so the Voting Rights Act was intended to remedy that. However, on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, because the justices said that the Voting Rights Act is “based on 40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.” I fear that the present day still needs it. Scott Lemieux argues that the Supreme Court is simply wanting to give the states the ‘freedom’ to discriminate against racial minorities in contradiction of the 15th Amendment. Within 24 hours of the Court decision, five Southern states were pushing Voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise Black voters without any clear benefit except partisan gain.
The Texas Attorney General is currently arguing that there is no need for the Voting Rights Act because the Republican Party that currently dominates Texas politics is not discriminating against any race, but is color-blindly discriminating against the opposition party! It only looks like racial discrimination because 95% of African Americans vote Democratic. Absent from this or any other case against the Voting Rights Act is any evidence that the Act hurts the democratic process or thwarts the median political will. The Texas Attorney General is arguing that their policies hurt white Democrats as much as Democrats of other races, but the Attorney General says nothing in the about how Texas would be more democratic without the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act is excellent legislation because it has made America more democratic. It benefits both a downtrodden minority and the median American. Unfortunately, it is viewed as solely an effort to help a minority. That view seems to have been more popular in the 1960s when racism was more polarizing, but today the focus on race makes it more politically vulnerable because the average American sees racism as less of a problem. If Americans realized that the Voting Rights Act helps make voting fairer for ALL Americans, the Supreme Court would be less interested in spending its political capital gutting the Act. After all, because whites are a majority of the population, more whites have probably benefited from the Voting Rights Act than blacks. For example, an analysis of the recent North Carolina voter ID law found that the majority of the people it would disenfranchise are white. It disenfranchises a much higher percentage of the black population, but still, the Voting Rights Act helped more whites than blacks in this case.
Medianism tends to be good for the disadvantaged because it is a movement away from elites towards the median and that tends to be good for the disadvantaged too. This is not always the case, but it is commonplace because the median is so much closer to the downtrodden than to the elites in both economic and political power. Medianism also helps steer policies towards political durability. The Voting Rights Act was aimed at helping the disadvantaged, but it has probably helped even more people from the dominant racial group and it has made our political system more democratic. Focusing on how it benefits everyone would make it more popular than a law that is for ‘minorities’.
The majority has a responsibility to help disadvantaged minorities too, but we will be able to accomplish the most by looking for the many policies that benefit both. The Voting Rights Act, is a good example of a good policy that benefits the bottom half but it is not as popular as it should be because it is seen as a policy that benefits a minority.
Leave a Comment