HR 9, the legislation to
reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is in trouble.
Extremist Republicans, who want to ban the production
of election materials in any language but English, and who aim
to end federal oversight of voting law changes in the South,
have forced Republican leaders to delay bringing the bill to
the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, invalidated at a stroke,
seven or eight decades of southern election law explicitly crafted
to deny the franchise to African Americans.
President Lyndon Johnson
and the Congress of that time only passed the 1965 Voting Rights
Act due to the existence of a mostly illegal Freedom Movement,
which had waged thousands of illegal civil actions over the
previous several years and demonstrated mass support in the
African American community, and because open discrimination
against blacks made the US look bad in its global struggle for
influence with the Soviet Union.
With the Voting Rights Act
up for renewal, none of the factors that enabled its passage
are around any more. The freedom movement of demonstrations and unruly illegal actions
is long dead. The Soviet
Union is history too, and the Republicans who rule today are
openly disdainful of world public opinion.
The only thing that stands between us and the end of
the Voting Rights Act is the tepid support of white and black
Democrats in Congress.
Tepid is indeed the word
for Democratic support of the Voting Rights Act.
If Republican reaction to the Voting Rights Act has been
to court white racism in the south and nationally, national
Democratic reaction to that development has been to visibly
distance itself from the aspirations of African Americans in
order not to be thought of by whites as “the black party”. This is why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointedly ordered
members of the Congressional Black Caucus to stick to the back
of the bus when it came to promoting renewal of the Voting Rights
Act. One has to wonder if Democrats in the House
will flog themselves into anything beyond hollow denunciations
of Republican perfidy in the service of VRA renewal.
We wouldn’t bet on it.
Two weeks ago, in a turn
of events little noted by the mainstream print and broadcast
media, a federal grand jury decided not to prosecute Georgia
congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for her alleged part in an incident
with a Capitol Hill police officer earlier this year. The inability of a federal prosecutor to get
a grand jury indictment is a plain and simple indication that
the case against McKinney was weak, fabricated or altogether
nonexistent. In grand jury situations, prosecutors enjoy
enormous latitude, including the ability to introduce hearsay
and rumor into the official record, and the power to compel
even self-incriminating testimony on pain of imprisonment.
For good reason, lawyers have long half-joked that any
marginally competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict
a ham sandwich for being a hot dog.
The rightist and racist
nature of the media’s rush to ridicule and judge the representative
from Georgia is clearly revealed by the lack of airtime and
ink devoted to her exoneration. Those members of the Congressional Black Caucus who rushed
to misjudge McKinney, who convened a special meeting of that
body to upbraid her, and who failed to stand with her on the
floor of Congress as she declared her innocence of any wrongdoing,
stand exposed too. Chief among these derelict and delinquent caucus members, who seem
to be working tirelessly to subvert the caucus’s very reason
for existence, are CBC chair Mel Watt of North Carolina, and
David Scott, the congressperson from west Atlanta.
Dr. Jared Ball of FreeMix
Radio and one of the principals of CBC
Monitor, has posted a half hour interview with Cynthia McKinney
which you can hear at http://www.voxunion.com/
Louis Starks, of Iowa, had this to say on the current utility
of the caucus: