Chuck Thompson at the New Republic has a piece on the case before the Supreme Court regarding the voting rights act. Its basic conclusion is that there is no way to prove that the South is more racist than the North. The legal implication of that is clear – provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were designed to keep overly-racist states from using their power to suppress the vote of minorities can no longer be justified. So far, so good. However, in a turn at the end, Thompson (author of Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession”) implies that the VRA should be kept around just so we as a country can show we disapprove of racism:
The argument here isn’t that that the North doesn’t have its own voting problems, or its own dubious pols, or even, in the case of New York’s Dov Hikind, pols who pose for dubious pictures. But so long as Southern officials like McConnell insist on clinging to their symbols of oppression, and so long as the majority of voters keep electing guys like him to some of the highest offices in their state governments, they’re going to have to live with being seen as the Michael Jordan of racism, even if they hung up that jersey long ago. And, like every other superstar who keeps begging for the limelight—by bringing cases to the Supreme Court or stoking Confederate nostalgia with bumper stickers and t-shirts—they’re going to have to get used to the fact that rest of the country can’t help but feeling a need to keep an eye on them. In that regard, the Voting Rights Act is a symbol, too.
Finding ways to show our disapproval of racism is good. However, willfully trampling on states’ and citizens’ rights in the absence of a compelling Constitutional reason for doing so is not. The law should never be used to deny the privileges and rights that all Americans are equally entitled to exercise without a clear and compelling justification, which must be grounded in a Constitutional imperative. Merely showing that we, as a country, disapprove of the views of rascists in no way rises to that level.