Congress, Give Us a New Voting Rights Act

In a piece at CNN, Donna Brazile argues that it is up to President Obama to convince Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, which has been gutted by the Supreme Court.

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaks in favor of the Voting Rights Act. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In a piece at CNN, Donna Brazile argues that it is up to President Obama to convince Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, which has been gutted by the Supreme Court. The challenge, however, will be mustering bipartisan support in a deeply divided Congress.

In an earthshaking 1965 speech to Congress and to the nation, President Lyndon Johnson spoke directly to the sinister forces that had restricted black Americans' right to vote across the South -- laying out the goals of the Voting Rights Act in the form of a command to this shameful cabal.

"Open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin. Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land," Johnson thundered. "There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain." The speech stirred the country, moved the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to tears and secured this essential law's passage.

Today, if President Barack Obama wants to save the Voting Rights Act following Tuesday's shameful Supreme Court ruling, then he faces an even bigger challenge than Johnson did: He's got to convince a much more hostile Congress that the act is worth saving.

Hanging in the balance is the very foundation of American civil rights law. On Tuesday, nearly 50 years after Johnson's historic speech, the five conservative members of the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in a single stroke. Why? According to the majority opinion, apparently it's because the discriminatory anti-voter rules the act prohibits aren't as much of a problem as they were before the law was passed.

If you're trying to think up a way to illustrate how completely nuts that is, don't worry, because Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg already put it best in her dissent. Striking down this essential part of the act, Ginsburg wrote, "is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

Read Donna Brazile's entire piece at CNN.

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