States’ rights is code for discrimination. A century and a half ago, some states asserted the right to leave the union. We fought the nation’s bloodiest conflict, then admitted the traitors back into the country on generous terms. Though our Confederate brothers and sisters died defending the enslavement of African-Americans, we did this in the name of peace and forgiveness.
Fast forward, to the 1960’s, all Americans were free from legalized slavery — but blacks were still routinely denied the ballot. Some states blocked access to the ballot with the same ferocity, and on the same grounds, that they stood in schoolhouse doors with ax handles — states’ rights. Denial of the ballot was based on the right of states to control all election procedures.
By eradicating widespread disenfranchisement in Dixie and in urban areas outside the Old South, the Voting Rights Act – enacted Aug. 6, 1965 – proved one of the most powerful pieces of federal legislation. It ranks with the 14th Amendment and the Commerce Clause in changing the lives of Americans everywhere — for the better.
It ushered in what we call “King Democracy” as in Martin Luther King Jr., on the way to forging a more perfect union and putting “Jeffersonian Democracy,” where democracy coexisted with slavery and then legal segregation, behind us.