The inspector general for the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, recently issued a report recommending that the Civil Rights Division should no longer favor applicants who have demonstrated an interest in civil rights or “the enforcement of civil rights laws.” This report ignited debate because the Senate is now taking up the nomination of Tom Perez, the division’s current head, to serve as secretary of labor, and the Supreme Court is pondering a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, a key part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It also comes out as the Republican Party is seeking urgently to rebrand itself to appeal to minority voters.
Though the report says nothing that should affect Perez’s confirmation or the court’s impending decision on the Voting Rights Act, it speaks volumes about the damage the Republican Party has inflicted on minority interests. It also highlights the party’s dilemma in trying to rehabilitate its standing with minority voters.
The report rejects conservative complaints about the Voting Section’s enforcement of the law and its recent hiring record. Its recommendation to avoid hiring lawyers dedicated to enforcing the civil rights laws, however, adopts the belief held by conservative ideologues that vigorous civil rights enforcement is unacceptably liberal.
The entire report illuminates the GOP’s ideological dead-end. It was generated by conservative activists working through Republican members of the House of Representatives. Their agenda is to impede enforcement of the Voting Rights Act on behalf of minorities; portray whites as victims of discrimination by minorities, and have the GOP-appointed justices of the Supreme Court throw out Section 5, which requires that jurisdictions with histories of entrenched discrimination seek approval from Washington before making any change in election procedures, as unconstitutional.
No amount of rebranding can make that agenda appealing to minority voters – as Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders are now learning.
Full Article: The continuing struggle for voting rights | The Great Debate.