It surely must be a mark of how rudderless and flailing the Republican House caucus is that they’d let a small rump group of white Southerners led by the likes of ‘charming’ Lynn Westmoreland hold hostage the Voting Rights Bill. It was supposed to have had smooth sailing through Congressional passage today. But that’s before Westie got his hands on it. I don’t think I’ve ever used the term ‘wingnut’ here but finally I’ve met someone who richly deserves the term. He and his cohorts have stymied legislation that likely would’ve won overwhelming support had the Republican leadership had the brass marbles to bring it to a vote.
In case you don’t believe that ‘wingnut’ designation and/or you’re a Republican, please you must sample Stephen Colbert’s devastating interview (thanks, Crooks & Liars) with him in which he touts his fight to display the Ten Commandments in federal courthouses, yet can only name three of the ten.
Returning to the Voting Rights Bill, the good Congressman believes that discrimination in voting is a matter of anecdotal evidence rather than statistical proof. Here’s his disparaging comment about the nature of such discrimination from an NPR report (audio):
You know, I’m sure that people go to a barbershop and they hear about somebody’s brother-in-law that didn’t know his voting precinct and, ya know, by the time he found it the polls had closed. I mean, there’s all different kinds of stories, I mean, we hear stories every day.
Right Congressman. That’s surely the only kind of “discrimination” that exists for minority voters in America today. Tell it to the thousands of African-Americans who never got a chance to vote in Florida in 2000.
Then there’s the Iowa Republican who claims there are no non-English speaking voters in his district who need non-English ballots; but who nevertheless is on his high horse demanding that there be no provision in the bill for non-English ballots. This is currently part of the existing Voting Rights Act and should’ve been almost automatically renewed today. But it looks like we’ve got to fight the English Only culture wars all over again before we get the bill renewed. It’s telling that Alberto Gonzales, resident Administration Hispanic, even wants the multi-language provision to remain in the bill. Doesn’t seem to hold much sway over the rump Republican Nativists.
As a Democrat, I say give this guy every chance he gets to be the standard bearer for the Republicans on this issue. Get him out in front of TV lights. Let America hear this guy. After that, they’ll surely know where the Republican party stands on issues of concern to African-Americans and Hispanics. Remember Bush’s lame-ass attempt to trumpet a Republican foray into ethnic politics through gains made among Hispanics and African-Americans? The longer they let this guy grab headlines the deader that initiative will ever be.
Hat tip to the National Jewish Democratic Council blog for this story.