Steve Bennen notes that the GOP congress is split over renewal of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was signed by Johnson back in '65 to open up the voting process to minorities. There's some provisions that say districts with a history of discrimination (i.e., the south) must submit any voting changes to the Attorney General for approval, and there's some other provisions that require multilingual ballots. Eighty reps want those provisions removed, some cuz of the racial thing and some for the bilingual thing.
The argument for getting rid of the anti-discrimination provisions is twofold: one, the problems are pretty much gone, and two, it's simply un-American to treat one group of voters differently from another. (The multilingual thing seems like it's really part of the larger immigration debate, so I don't plan on addressing it here.)
The persistence of discrimination can be debated. Maybe someone like Otto Man could make it interesting and entertaining (he'll be back soon - I promise), but it's way too hot and humid here in metro DC for me to bother with it. Besides, too often we get caught up in debating these underlying issues and miss out on what might be an easier solution. Today is all about the path of least resistance.
Instead of trying to cut away parts of the VRA, which really ain't gonna happen, why not just expand it? Instead of singling out the south, let's just assume that every voting district in the country is susceptible to discrimination and have them submit their voting changes to the Atty Gen. And instead of just being about race, let's expand the definition of "discrimination" to include all the stuff our equal employment laws stipulate: age, gender, physical appearance, religion, economic status, etc.
My conservative friends might say expanding VRA would be terrible, because this would be an expansion of gov't bureaucracy and would be expensive and so on. My knee-jerk response would be to chuckle and recount the ways in which small-gov't conservatives have made our gov't fatter than Michael Moore. This would feel great but would be pretty unproductive, which tells me I should leave it for the Bushes and Zidanes of the world.
So instead I'd tell them to think of it as an investment. Politicians have to spend millions just for the chance to win a house seat; if you were going to spend millions of dollars on something, wouldn't you want to know you had a fair chance of reaping the rewards? Also, investing in our voter integrity at home might help us win hearts and minds abroad. Think of it as an exercise in those democratic, small "L" liberal ideals that we keep barfing on the Iraqis. Show them that we mean it about fairly elected governments and all that.
Let's put a small amount of money where our big fat mouths are.