The GOP’s latest legislative attack on the South provides a good look at just how far the Republicans have gone on their racial and multicultural guilt trip.
In July, President Bush and his Myrmidons saddled the country, in general, and Dixie, in particular, with a 25-year extension of the ill-conceived Voting Rights Act. If ever a piece of legislation provided the opportunity for an alleged conservative Republican to demonstrate at least a little backbone, it was this one. Alas, it wasn’t to be. In fact, it is a miracle a few Republican worthies weren’t trampled to death in the mad rush of pachyderms to vote for the bill. In the Senate, this relic passed 98-0; in the House, 390-33.
Fearing the R word, Republicans from the South lined up against their homes and people. Here in the Shenandoah Valley, Rep. Bob Goodlatte was true to form. Citing some 700 alleged violations of the Act—18 of them in Virginia—he voted “Aye.” Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican who represents the multicultural mess known as Northern Virginia, joined the lowing herd with Virginia’s two senators, George Allen and John Warner.
Passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act requires most of the South and a few other states to get the federal government’s imprimatur before running an election. The idea was to correct racial discrimination at the ballot box, and, because white Southerners are untrustworthy and innately evil, any changes in local election law, even the date of an election, became subject to federal review. The bill was thrice renewed, then extended again in July, when Bush, an alleged Texan, signed it into law. In keeping with the times, the latest installment includes requirements to publish ballots in Spanish.
Whatever real or imagined wrongs the Voting Rights Act was meant to address 40 years ago have long passed into memory. Dangerous as it is to quote River City’s resident philosophe, George Will, even a broken clock is right twice a day: “Today there are 43 African-American members of the House and Senate and more than 9,000 elected state and local officials. The state with the largest number? Mississippi. Second and third? Alabama and Louisiana. So why the continuing pretense that the right to vote is, for African-Americans, precarious and, unless the full VRA is preserved forever, perishable?” Indeed, and not to mention that Virginia’s chief justice is black, and Ol’ Virginny stands as the only state that has elected a black governor (if we don’t count Bill Clinton and Howard Dean).
Granted, a very few counties in a very few states elsewhere in the country are subject to its rules, but, by and large, the Voting Rights Act is aimed at the South, which means that the act’s extension is less an urgently required remedy to redress wrongdoing than a leftist cannon meant to plaster the South with eternal guilt not only for slavery and secession but for the Klan and Jim Crow, Tillman and Thurmond and Wallace and Maddox, attack dogs and fire hoses, white water fountains and colored bathrooms . . . everything the evil old South supposedly represents. It’s a wonder anyone named Davis or Lee is permitted to vote. Revanchist Southerners, after all, are always up to no good.
One might think that this view is confined to Al Sharpton and the disgruntled blacks he represents, who quickly warned that Dubya had better step-an’-fetchit in enforcing the act. But apparently, Goodlatte, Wolf, and Allen, as well as the others who went North on the bill, also believe it.
Not surprisingly, none of these three is a native Virginian. Goodlatte and Wolf are Yankees—the former from Holyoke, Massachusetts; the latter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Allen, boiled in oil a few years ago when someone noticed that he had unfurled the Confederate Battle Flag in a weak moment, landed in Virginia on transferring from UCLA to UVa. An adult lifetime in Virginia ought to engender some loyalty to a man’s adopted home. But these three politicians, and other carpetbaggers and even some real sons of the South who backed the Voting Rights Act, are loyal to just one master: the Republicrat Axis of Evil and its Grand Panjandrum.
Southern voters who think they know these tribunes of the people are mistaken. For starters, like all modern politicians, they are cosmically silly. Allen and Wolf actually conjured up legislation to stop drowning in pools, and, a few years ago, Goodlatte peddled a risible press release announcing that he fully supports learning to read. How’s that for going way out on a radical limb?
These men are not even limited-government conservatives. They vocally support their Republican vizier’s record-breaking spending binge and misguided, bloody crusade in Mesopotamia. They are conservative only in the sense that National Review or Norman Podhoretz is conservative—which means they aren’t. For these men, as for most Republicans, ties of blood and land and kith and kin mean nothing.
In practice, the Voting Rights Act won’t affect much in Virginia or anywhere else because violations rarely occur, and those that do occur are more likely innocent than inspired by the kind of racial animosity that Sharpton and his tub thumpers spin fairy tales about. Thus, like much of what the left does with the happy assistance of the Beltway Right, it’s all about symbolism. Because voting rights are not in danger, these men have symbolically punished the people they claim to represent. And they did so by perpetuating two clichéd but powerful ideological symbols: desperately needed legislation to enshrine racial equality as “the law of the land,” and evil white Southerners who stop blacks from voting. Which only makes Goodlatte & Co.’s voting for the act particularly loathsome. They conscripted the law to serve a lie. The politicians know it. The pundits know it. The voters know it.
And yet, white Southerners believe it.