These days it’s a rare moment when a Republican breaks with the Ideology and takes a dance on the right side of history. Republicans who speak in favor of the Voting Rights Act are even more difficult to find.
However, Colin Powell criticized North Carolina’s bill, and vote suppression in general in several appearances of late. Now Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is on the record saying he wants to fix the pre-clearance formula by the end of this year. He probably shocked the bejeezus out of vote suppressor in chief, Reince Priebus when on Monday, he reminded Republicans of the need to not only fix the pre-clearance formula but to make it immune to court challenges by “the usual suspects.”
While making a speech at a RNC event commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Sensenbrenner said:
The first thing we have to do is take the monkey wrench that the court threw in it, out of the Voting Rights Act, and then use that monkey wrench to be able to fix it so that it is alive, well, constitutional and impervious to another challenge that will be filed by the usual suspects.
This is reminiscent of the days when partisanship was secondary when it came to things like reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act or the Voting Rights Act.
Sensenbrenner is one Republican with a solid record of supporting the VRA having worked to get it reauthorized under Reagan back in 1982 and again, under Bush in 2006. After the Supreme Court overturned the preclearance formula in June,he testified at a Senate Judiciary hearing on the VRA saying:
I did not expect my career to include a third reauthorization of the VRA, but I believe it is a necessary challenge. Voter discrimination still exists, and our progress toward equality should not be mistaken for a final victory.” (my italics)
I guess Sensenbrenner is one of those left-wing extremists trying to scare people that NC Governor Pat McCrory talked about in his you-tube video defending the most restrictive voter suppression law in the country.
McCrory also admitted he didn’t know what was in the bill he was signing, while Sensenbrenner actually knows something about the Voting Rights Act. He also recognizes the fact that preclearance’s effectiveness is not proof that we have been cured of voter discrimination. Rather, preclearance is an effective mechanism on which to prevent the voter discrimination that is inherent in “voter ID” laws like those passed in Texas, North Carolina, and other red states.
The reality is that we cannot get a new preclearance formula before the next election without Republicans. There is every reason to be skeptical about the probability of Sensenbrenner’s success with Republicans who believe if you can’t persuade people to vote for terrible ideas, the obvious solution is to block their votes.
Within the context of a Tea Party controlled Republican Party, with Rush Limbaugh of all people, as its leader, Sensenbrenner is showing a rare sort of courage. The sad thing is doing the right thing shouldn’t have to be a courageous act.
One can only hope there are other Republicans in Congress who will follow his lead.
Image: USA Today