Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Is this alliance all that rare … really?

I continue to be struck by the surprise alliance reportedly formed with conservative Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and liberal Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

They supposedly are preparing to team up on legislation aimed at restricting, possibly eliminating, lawmakers who become corporate lobbyists. The budding Cruz-AOC Alliance has tongues a-wagging in Washington. Why, some folks just cannot believe that these two ferocious partisans could find common ground on anything.

But I guess they have. At least that’s my hope.

It’s not unprecedented by any stretch. Two former senators, liberal Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and the late conservative Republican John McCain of Arizona, teamed up on campaign finance reform measures that sought to put caps on the money raised in political campaigns.

Countless other alliances have been formed since the beginning of the republic. Indeed, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson needed Republican senators to help him enact voting rights and civil rights legislation in the 1960s, given the resistance he was getting from southern Democrats in the U.S. Senate. LBJ was able to parlay his bipartisan friendships into landmark legislation.

I get that there appears to be plenty of skeptics about the Cruz-AOC team. Righties doubt that Ocasio-Cortez will be actually reach out to Cruz and other Republicans; lefties are inherently suspicious of Cruz’s statements expressing support for any idea put forth by a progressive colleague.

What began as a Twitter conversation between these two highly partisan lawmakers well might bear fruit. Or … it could wither and die.

I’m going to hold out hope that Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez carry through on their pledge to begin draining the proverbial swamp.

What have they done to your party, Mr. President?

Dear President Lincoln,

Wherever you are, I want to wish you a happy 210th birthday. Man, we have gone a long way in this country you once led in the years since you came into this world. I’m glad you were here, although you preceded me by, well, many years.

Mr. President, I am writing you this note while wondering once again what in name of emancipation has become of the party that used to carry your name.

Not long after you left us, Mr. President, Republicans began referring to themselves as belonging to the Party of Lincoln. They were proud of the legacy you left, the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, your fight to preserve the Union, the leadership you showed while the nation fought to save itself against the insurrection mounted by the Confederate States of America.

They took that pride well into the next century, Mr. President. Republicans joined hands with a Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas, and helped enact the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and 1965, laws that bestowed full citizenship rights to all Americans, especially toward those African-American descendants of the slaves you freed.

But your party has morphed into something quite different, Mr. President. It’s now the party of Trump, as in Donald John Trump. It has become the party of nativism, of fear, of jingoism. To be sure, your party began marching down that road many years prior to that. Donald Trump was elected president and he has grabbed your party by the throat and sought to create a political entity that bears no resemblance to the party you once led.

Please understand, Mr. President, that you remain a hero to many of us who came along much later. We studied your presidency and understood how troubled you were for the entire time you served as our commander in chief.

I am one who wishes we still celebrated your birthday separate from the other presidents. Your time in office stands alone. The federal government, though, decided not too many years to meld your birthday into something called Presidents Day; it falls usually between your birthday and Feb. 22, which is when President/General Washington was born in Virginia. However, we now honor all the men who have held the office.

Granted, some of them deserve to be honored in such a manner. Not all of them, though. You might already know how I feel about the current president, so I’ll just leave that statement unsaid.

Happy birthday, sir. I wish your once-great party could find its way out of the darkness.

Bush 41’s death means end of ‘old’ GOP? Let’s hope not

More than a few talking heads have ruminated since the death of former President George H.W. Bush about the future of the Republican Party and whether the party of which Bush was a proud member will return in its former image.

Some have said “no.” I don’t subscribe to that idea.

Today’s Republican Party has been taken over by those loyal to a president who doesn’t define his own ideology — such as it is — by anything resembling traditional GOP values.

The GOP has taken a dramatically different course from where it used to travel. I’ll offer three examples

  • President Bush was a supreme coalition builder. He did that very thing when assessing how to kick Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in the late summer of 1990. He brought together more than 30 nations to (a) provide fighting forces on the field or (b) give money to finance the military initiative that became known as Operation Desert Storm; some nations, of course, did both.
  • The Republican Party of old once touted fiscal responsibility. It loathed a federal budget deficit. It preferred to curb spending and, yes, curb taxes. The current GOP has enacted a tax cut but has done damn little to curb spending. Thus, the deficit is ballooning again.
  • The Party of Lincoln used to be an inclusive outfit. It welcomed people of all races, ethnicities, creeds. It has become another kind of party these days. It is seeking to shut the door on those seeking asylum from tyranny in their homelands. Politicians who belonged the former Republican Party helped a Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, enact the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960s over the objection of many southern Senate Democrats who clung to their segregationist history. Imagine that happening today.

I cannot predict whether the old Republican Party will return, let alone when that might occur. I try like the dickens to avoid cynicism. My hope still springs forth that there will be a better day ahead.

President George H.W. Bush — although he was far from perfect — still in many ways embodied the ideals of a once-great political party. Those ideals have been pushed aside. We’ll bury Bush 41 in a few days. While we’re at it, how about trying to exhume the remains of a Republican Party that he represented?

Race mattered in ’64, but LBJ and Goldwater kept it on ice

lbj and goldwater

Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton are engaging in a most extraordinary political fire fight.

Republican presidential nominee Trump and Democratic nominee Clinton are accusing each other of racial bigotry.

Race is an issue in this campaign? It must be so.

It also was an issue back in 1964. The major-party candidates then, though, took a different course.

President Lyndon Johnson and his Republican Party challenger, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, decided to keep race out of the campaign.


The two men met at the White House in July 1964 and agreed that they wouldn’t interject the highly charged issue of race relations into their quest for the White House.

Sen. Goldwater was never known to curb his own tongue. He was a fiery conservative who was prone to making provocative statements. He opposed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

President Johnson, the Texan known for his excesses and his occasional crudeness, had taken office amid profound national tragedy the previous November. He decided it was time to move his party away from its segregationist past, a decision that would cost the party dearly throughout the South.

As Politico reports:

“In 2016, many observers have suggested similarities between Trump and Senator Goldwater. In some ways, they are analogous: Both were outsiders who won the nomination of a deeply divided Republican Party after defeating the preferred, more moderate candidates of the GOP establishment. And Goldwater, like Trump, had a habit of impolitic comments, as in his clarion call that ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.’ It was a central part of Goldwater’s appeal: He tells it like it is, political correctness be damned—’In your heart, you know he’s right,’ just like his campaign slogan said.

“But there’s a big difference between the quixotic campaign of Goldwater and the spectacularly flawed campaign of Trump: Goldwater abhorred racist rhetoric, whereas Trump may have sealed his fate with it in two major turning points. First came Trump’s assertion that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly rule in the Trump University case because the Indiana-born Curiel is of Mexican ancestry while Trump has pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border. Then, Trump’s attack on Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American Gold Star parents who appeared at the Democratic National Convention. Trump insinuated that Ghazala Khan, who stood silently by as her husband spoke, was ‘not allowed’ to speak due to their Islamic religion.”

It’s not that we should sweep the race issue away, pretend it doesn’t exist. My concern in 2016 is that the invective has poisoned reasonable, rational and responsible discussion.

President Johnson and Sen. Goldwater perhaps had the same fear 52 years ago when they decided to keep their hands off a live political grenade.

What would LBJ think of today’s political climate?


JOHNSON CITY, Texas — What would Lyndon think of what happened today?

We’ve spent the past three nights in President Johnson’s beloved Texas Hill Country and it was in this tranquil environment that we heard the news out of Washington — that House Speaker John Boehner is resigning his speakership and his congressional seat at the end of October.

The reaction from across the political spectrum? Well, President Obama — with whom Boehner has had many enormous differences — called him a “patriot” and a “good man.”

The reaction from the right wing of the speaker’s Republican Party? They cheered the news. Good riddance, Mr. Speaker.

Right wingers are smiling at the news. They want the speaker out of there.

Which brings me back to Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ was a proud Democrat. He also was a supreme legislator, thought by many to be the greatest Senate majority leader in the history of the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

He took his legislative skill with him to the vice presidency and then — in that spasm of violence on Nov. 22, 1963 — to the presidency.

How do you suppose he earned the legislative kudos? He earned them by knowing how to compromise and how to get his friends in the other party to join him in enacting critical legislation. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, enactment of Medicare? All three of those landmarks were achieved with bipartisan support engineered in large part by the president of the United States.

Today, the mood and the atmosphere is different. Arch-conservatives — and, for that matter, ultraliberals — would rather fall on their proverbial grenades than compromise with politicians they see as enemies, and not just adversaries.

Lyndon Johnson would be an unhappy man were he to rise from his grave in Stonewall and see what has happened to the two great political parties that at one time knew how to work together to get things done for the common good.

In that respect, the president likely would throw his arm around Speaker Boehner, wish him well and hope for the return of better days atop Capitol Hill.



Rep. Lewis still stands tall

If I had to cast a vote for the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights icon, it would have to be — without question — a gentleman from Georgia, U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

This great man spoke over the weekend at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. He was among a large crowd of Americans marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers were attacked at that bridge by Alabama police officers.

Rep. Lewis was one of them. He was beaten within an inch of his life by policemen with clubs.

He was part of what was supposed to be a non-violent march in search of voting rights for all Americans, notably African-Americans.


Lewis spoke today, 50 years after that event, and presented himself as just one man who sought to bring justice for his fellow Americans.

He’s such a towering figure today that he totally belies his relatively short physical stature.

Lewis is the last known survivor of those who stood on the podium behind Martin Luther King Jr. during Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He was at the forefront — even at such a young age — of non-violent protest marches.

He was beaten, but never defeated. And then, when it came time for him to seek public office, he launched his effort to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he would help write the laws that affect all Americans.

I was proud for Rep. Lewis that he was able today to speak loudly and forcefully from the bridge where 50 years ago he was bloodied. This great man demonstrated the immense power of one’s principle and conviction.

There can be no greater testament to the cause for which this courageous man fought and bled.

Amazing turnaround on race

UPDATE: This just in … House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed late to commit to attending the Selma, Ala., rally commemorating the march that helped spark approval of the Voting Rights Act 50 years ago.


Virtually no Republican leaders will take part in ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Ala., civil rights march?

How can that be?

The Party of Abraham Lincoln needs to have representation at this event. Doesn’t it?


The march helped produce the Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat who pushed it through Congress with help from his Republican allies. Indeed, the Democratic Party — particularly in the South — was well-known to resist civil-rights legislation. LBJ was warned by his Southern Democratic friends that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act would cost the party dearly in terms of Southern support. It did.

Fifty years later, it’s now Republicans who are staying away from events to commemorate the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The GOP won’t be totally absent. An estimated 23 Republican members of the House and Senate will attend. Good for them.

Are the party leaders who should be there — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — all racists? I don’t believe that for a moment. One key GOP leader, though, really and truly needs to be there. That would be House Majority Whip Gary Scalise, who spoke to a David Duke-sponsored political event before being elected to the House; he’s since disavowed that appearance and has declared that he harbors no racial bias — but he needed to commit to this event.

The allegiances of the two major parties appear to have turned rather dramatically with regard to race relations.


LBJ had it right about the South

Wherever he is, Lyndon Baines Johnson is likely nodding and saying, “Yep, I told ya so.”

What he told the country came true long ago, which was that signing the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s likely would cost the Democratic Party its strength in the states of the Old Confederacy.

Over the weekend, the final Democratic statewide officeholder in Dixie — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — went down to a resounding defeat by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.


The 36th president of the United States signed the Voting Rights Act knowing full well what it might do to the Democratic coalition in the South. It would splinter it. The new law, of course, removed all forms of taxation meant to keep minorities from voting. It guaranteed equal access to the election process for all Americans regardless of race.

Texas used to be a Democratic stronghold. Even in the Panhandle of Texas — where conservative Republicans first gained a foothold in Texas — one could find Democrats occupying political offices.

That’s all changed. Republicans now stand far and wide across the Southern landscape.

Landrieu didn’t just lose her Senate seat, she lost it badly, by more than a dozen percentage points.

How do Democrats get back their Southern mojo? Well, that remains one of the most monumental tasks facing modern political thinkers. They certainly cannot forsake their commitment to the Voting Rights Act that the late Democratic president — LBJ — staked out for the nation.

It well might be that Democrats cannot win back the South. It also well could mean a furthering fracturing of the nation into regional political interests.

Whatever the future holds, Republicans are the kings and queens of the political empire in Dixie.

Ol’ Lyndon would not be a happy man.



Voter ID laws miss real culprit

Texas’s voter identification law is in place to guard against voter fraud.

Is it working? Does it seek out the most common culprit? Frontline, the acclaimed PBS news documentary series, suggests it doesn’t.


The most common abusers are absentee voters, according to Frontline. The Texas law, which has been upheld by the courts, targets those who show up at the polls without proper identification or who have false ID and seek to pass themselves off as someone else.

Yes, those incidences do occur — rarely.

The more common element of fraud occurs away from the polling place.

Frontline notes that most absentee votes are white and older than the rest of the voting population. Accordingly, voter ID laws draw their aim on those who are least able to afford to pay for the kinds of identification that many states now require. As Frontline reports:

“Laws that require photo ID at the polls vary, but the strictest laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation to only a handful of cards. For example, in Texas, voters must show one of seven forms of state or federal-issue photo ID, with a valid expiration date: a driver’s license, a personal ID card issued by the state, a concealed handgun license, a military ID, citizenship certificate or a passport. The name on the ID must exactly match the one on the voter rolls.

“African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs, according to several estimates. Even when the state offers a free photo ID, these voters, who are disproportionately low-income, may not be able to procure the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one.”

Therein lies the problem that some see in these voter ID laws. They make it harder for some Americans to vote and those Americans happen to be among the more disadvantaged among us.

Didn’t we pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit such a thing?

Citizenship test for voters?

An aspect of modern media today is that with so many platforms out there, it’s easy for talking heads — people with lots of opinions about this or that issue — to speak their peace before plenty of people.

The size of their platform grants them some sort of “expert” status.

In fairness, I could add myself to that list of so-called “experts.” I write this blog and offer my opinions to those who care to read them. What they do with these thoughts, well, depends on whether they agree.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a Fox News Channel host who, I guess, has a forum to say things that are patently ridiculous. However, because she’s on a network “news” channel, her statements carry some extra weight.


Her latest ridiculous rant suggested that citizens should have to pass a citizenship test before they vote or before they graduate from high school.

Hasselbeck endorsed the idea of a citizenship test in a morning discussion on the “Fox and Friends” show she co-hosts. But according to Salon.com, Hasselbeck missed a history lesson of her own.

According to Salon.com: “The problem is one that Fox completely omitted, an argumentative tactic that has served the network well. There actually has been such a test, a so-called literacy test, which was eventually banned by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The test was theoretically to be given to people of all races, but was disproportionately given to black potential voters in order to disenfranchise them. A few of the tests are available, and the wording of the questions are deliberately confusing and obtuse in such a way that even highly educated people would not necessarily do well.”

As a former colleague of mine is fond of saying — usually in support of right-wingers’ view of constitutional issues — the Constitution doesn’t say a word about requiring such tests as a condition for voting.

Therefore, Hasselbeck has just flunked her own test of civic knowledge.