The Political Animal

The Voting Rights Act and the Consequences of Our Actions


A little over a year ago, to counter a vein of left criticism of President Obama during the election year, I wrote, of the 1968 presidential election,

Significantly, while Nixon won 86% of the registered Republican vote, Humphrey won only 74% of registered Democrats. Democratic division before and after the ’68 convention [primarily over the Vietnam War] caused many McCarthy, Kennedy, and McGovern supporters to withhold their votes from Humphrey.

Because of that 12 percentage point difference in support from registered party members, Nixon won the presidency, by 512,000 votes. Ironically, or not, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election by just under 544,000 votes. If 12 percent of the Democratic electorate had not convinced itself that Hubert Humphrey was no better than Richard Nixon –  because he had been, of course,  a loyal vice-president to Lyndon Johnson, under whose leadership the Voting Rights Act was first passed – Nixon would not have been elected president.

Had Nixon not been elected president, William Rehnquist would not have been appointed to the Supreme Court.

Had William Rehnquist not still been sitting on the Supreme Court in 2000, he could not have been part of a 5-4 conservative justice majority that interfered with the Florida recount and effectively handed the presidency to George W. Bush.

If over 97,000 Floridians had not voted for Ralph Nader, rather than Al Gore – as 12 percent of the registered Democratic electorate had withheld its voted from Hubert Humphrey in 1968 – there would have been no Florida recount controversy and no consequent Supreme Court vote to deny the presidency to Al Gore and deliver it to George W. Bush.

Had Al Gore become president in 2000, and not George W. Bush, John Roberts and Samuel Alito would not have been appointed to the Supreme Court.

Were Roberts and Alito not on the court, there would be no likely 5-4 majority to overturn section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which, when last renewed by congress, in 2006, was passed by a vote of 99-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.

Given the efforts of GOP legislatures in a variety of states during 2012 to suppress the minority vote through new voting provisions very much in the spirit of Jim Crow, not only should section 5 not be eliminated, but its reach should probably be extended.



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