Some have noted that many notable Republicans have been silent during the initial aftermath of Tuesday’s historic Supreme Court decision concerning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Others believe that the Supreme Court has handed the Republican Party a grand old opportunity to make their mark on the legislative landscape for generations to come.
They would be right.
Many Republicans have feared speaking out concerning the controversial and highly-charged 5-4 decision. As well, the High Court has handed the GOP a unique opportunity to make their mark on history.
It is time to seize upon the call to be historic.
Republicans – in answering the call emblazoned upon them by the Legacy of Abraham Lincoln – must take the lead in securing the suffrage of all Americans, particularly in light of the lack of confidence in current political leaders, the questionable voter ID laws in some states, and the bipartisan gerrymandering that has corrupted politics from local municipalities to congressional districts. Standing on the dual pillars of a politically-pragmatic perspective as well as from a historically-consistent moral obligation, Republicans should champion the re-strengthening of the Voting Rights Act or the creation of a new bill with all deliberate speed – from the halls of Congress to the venues of public discourse.
Yes, I believe that we Republicans – starting with congressional Republicans and bolstered by high-profile Republicans on the scene – should lead the charge to research, re-write, and sponsor an appropriate 21st-century version of the Voting Rights Act, even if this initial new rendition of the act does not have the same 25-year as-is lifespan that was prescribed in 2006. This political endeavor would be consistent with the 390-to-33 vote in the House of Representatives and the 98-to-0 vote in the Senate in 2006. It could be consistent with the sentiments of current legislators that believe that this law should not be punitive according to 1965 standards, but protective in accordance to our modern-day challenges.
If I were in Congress, I would begin writing up this legislation today. If I were a congressional candidate in 2014, this endeavor would be a major plank in my campaign platform.
From a politically-pragmatic perspective, Republicans will never win the majority of Black and Latino voters (and perhaps not even Millennials and Gen X voters) in the 21st-century with a strategy buoyed primarily with hopes of scaling back Civil Rights advances from the 20th century. For Republicans to present a believable and long-lasting image of fairness and trustworthiness as competitors for these key voting blocs, my party must immediately find the political courage and endurance to mustard a conservative, common-sense approach to voting rights that reflects several harsh realities:
America finds herself re-segregating along economic, educational, and civic lines, among other factors;
Republicans have been better at alienating Black voters during our quests to win elections than we have been convincing the Black electorate; and
Republican candidates have won more elections by stagnating or overwhelming minority voters in key elections than we have earning a significant portion of Black voters – a remedy that is no longer viable.
Pragmatically, the optimal way to show Black voters and other minority citizens that we are a viable option in all elections annually is to illustrate to these fellow Americans that we value the power and presence of their vote. The best way to highlight this position is to uphold and champion their access to the vote through legislation, not just rhetoric. The fastest way to create partnerships with Black voters and other newly-targeted voting blocs is to show – as we did via integration – that we are not afraid to embrace them fully – including and especially at the ballot box each fall. The smartest way to do this is to get ahead of the political curve (that one has to believe is coming), heal the social impropriety that the technically-viable Supreme Court decision caused on Tuesday, and openly champion the accessibility of all Americans to the ballot box before the sun sets on this fall’s elections.
My fellow Republicans: make Civil Rights a part of the GOP brand once again. Once Black voters and others believe that we care about their rights as our fellow Americans, they will soon believe earnestly in our economic, social, employment and educational solutions for their families as well once we effectively articulate these principles with the same sincerity as we have towards protecting the civil right to vote.
In doing so, we Republicans would finally again live up to the standards expected of a political group labeled as the Party of Lincoln. With the gravitas of the Great Emancipator’s leadership sitting on our chests like a grand old elephant, our hearts will remain heavy if we continue to ignore the call we have to heal the racial and socioeconomic injuries that have accumulated over the past decades. As a party, we have never wavered in the face of history when prompted to uphold justice and morality for the historically-disadvantaged in America – until now. We stood for the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. We structured Reconstruction and groomed Black legislators nationally during that era. We fostered and advanced women’s suffrage. We beat back the segregation facing the Little Rock 9. We led the charge for Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, including the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action. Ignoring the spark to remedy this void for the sake of short-term electoral victories would not only dishonor the long-lasting history of the GOP from Lincoln to Dirksen, but it would also disable the long-term objectives of a political movement that, quite frankly, needs to change the current voting patterns within minority communities.
A new, viable, smart, and appropriately-sized Voting Rights Act for modern-day America (or adding subsections to the current act) – one that would function above the bipartisan corrosion that currently poisons much of politics today – could provide the protections of yesteryear, the flexibility needed for today, and the visionary belief that America’s people and politics can change for the better over time.
If Republican leadership can think of themselves as historic visionaries, not mere political victors, this proposed walk in the footsteps of Lincoln could provide the moral boost necessary to finally walk out of the shadow of Obama, particularly in the eyes of Black America and new voters nationally. The time calls not for us to be quiet, celebrating a perceived court victory in the safe confines of friends. The time calls not for us to be safe, leveraging the oft-used political playbook to secure immediate wins before the always-ensuing backlash comes a voting cycle later. The time calls not for us to be narrow-minded, confining our definition of conservatism to the partisan whims of today’s news-cycle and tomorrow’s fundraiser. Rather, the time calls for us as Republicans to be historic, to embrace vision, to reach out to new political friends in untapped voting blocs, and to embody the promise of Civil Rights in America once again. It is time for Republicans to again lead the charge in securing voting rights for all Americans, combining the current zeal for voter ID laws and the civil rights successes of voting rights laws to craft a sensible act that protects and empowers all American citizens of voting-age. And, along the way, we will not only reinvigorate the Legacy of Lincoln among us, but we will foster a validated bridge of trust that – along with sound policies and invested partnerships – will bring Blacks and other new voters along with us.
Political commentator and community advocate Lenny McAllister is the “Working Man’s Conservative” currently working to make his hometown of Chicago and our proud nation better by working together as #OneBigTeam. Featured as one of the “40 Under 40 to Watch in 2012” by the historic newspaper The Chicago Defender, he has been featured in several national and international publications and media outlets, including Essence, Chicago Crusader, and Charlotte Magazine. “The McAllister Minute,” a regular feature of the American Urban Radio Network, runs on more than 300 stations nationwide.
For more information, go tohttp://www.LennyMcAllister.com
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