So how does a prominent senior Republican House member spend his final days before a major national election? Helping score points for the other party on a critical issue that will help his opponents obtain an unfair electoral advantage, of course! What else would we expect from the Republican Party?
Yesterday, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. (C, 76%), the most senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, penned an op-ed for The Washington Post calling on Congress to expand the Voting Rights Act (VRA). To those unfamiliar with the VRA and the way the courts misinterpret it, this might not seem like such a consequential issue. But here’s an analogy that places Sensenbrenner’s act in its proper context: It’s equivalent to a prominent Republican writing an op-ed a week before the election advocating for the expansion of Obamacare.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed to combat real discrimination against black American voters during the Jim Crow days of the South. Yet, much like the 14th Amendment and other civil rights-era legislation (both in the 19th and 20th centuries), the Left and the courts are bastardizing the interpretation of the VRA to crush the states, by
Anything short of tilting election law in favor of the Democratic Party platform is deemed as racist, invidious, and in violation of the VRA (among other laws and the Constitution). For example, in their outrageous view, requiring photo ID to prevent fraud is akin to a literacy test, which was barred by the VRA.
In short, the courts — at the behest of the ACLU — have abused the VRA to ensure that Republicans can never win a close election because they require laws that both favor Democrat GOTV over Republicans and prevent states from combating voter fraud. Hence, a law that was designed to stop the disenfranchisement of black voters is now used to disenfranchise the all citizens — black and white — by invalidating voter ID laws and other measures designed to screen out non-citizen voters and voter fraud.
Evidently, Sensenbrenner is not bothered by any of this. What is keeping him up at night? He is upset at the one victory we have ever secured in the court system on this issue. He sides with the Left in believing that the only threat to fair and honest elections in this country is from conservative states discriminating against minority voters:
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that voter discrimination was no longer a problem and effectively struck down the only portion of the act designed to stop discrimination before it affects an election. The court let stand the provisions of the act that allow lawsuits after a discriminatory law takes effect, but unfortunately, the United States has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.
At issue is a practice known as preclearance. Under the 1965 law, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination had to submit changes in voting practices to the Justice Department for review. But in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the trigger used to determine which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance, effectively removing this safeguard.
Along with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), I introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 to modernize the original law and to respond to the Supreme Court’s objections in Shelby County. The bill recognizes the importance of preclearance, but applies it evenly across all 50 states.
Shelby County was probably the only major victory we’ve ever won regarding the judicial supremacist role of the courts and their exaggerated power to strike down statutes. Yet Sensenbrenner is complaining about that one victory! What is so scandalous is that this was a small and fleeting victory he is inveighing against. And in fact, as noted above, the Left has succeeded in bringing VRA complaints against Republican states and winning in court more than ever before.
Shelby County was merely a symbolic win that absolved southern states from the presumption of guilt in disenfranchising black voters to the point that they need to “pre-clear” the election maps with the Justice Department. But as we saw in North Carolina, the courts are still throwing out their maps after they are passed by the legislature, while leaving intact the most egregious gerrymanders in Democrat states.
Republicans are like the firefighters that enter the scene of a raging fire and spray gasoline instead of water on the inferno. They are like a football team that marches the ball into the opposite end zone.
Thus Shelby County didn’t even harm the Left’s agenda to enshrine Democrat methods, procedures, times, and maps for elections into law. It is successfully implementing them, which is something Sensenbrenner is evidently proud of. The only practical political effect of Shelby County was to recognize that, in light of the dramatic changes the southern states have made over the past half century in combating discrimination, it is patently unconstitutional to treat them differently from other states and require pre-clearance from the feds. If one believes judicial review is the primary role of the courts (a view to which I do not subscribe), there was no more appropriate use of it than in Shelby County.
The fact that this decision was more symbolic than consequential makes Sensenbrenner’s agenda all the more offensive. It’s a slap in the face to conservatives for him to agree with the George Soros view that southern states are still engaging in Jim Crow-era discrimination, while Democrat states and federal judges are engaging in real discrimination against conservatives and disenfranchising all citizens by inducing voter fraud on non-citizens voting.
Sensenbrenner, who has been influenced by an ACLU lobbyist — his former deputy chief of staff — is not alone on this issue. Many members and staffers in leadership of both houses — including Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (F, 51%) — support him in this endeavor and are evidently to the left of Justice Kennedy.
Folks, this is exhibit #50,000,000 why the Republican Party will never serve as a national home for conservatives. Republicans are like the firefighters that enter the scene of a raging fire and spray gasoline instead of water on the inferno. They are like a football team that marches the ball into the opposite end zone. We can go only so long with a two-party system, whereby one party does everything it can to promote its agenda and win elections, while the other party does everything it can to promote the other party’s agenda and secure a permanent majority for their electorate.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.