When the Supreme Court struck down a major section of the Voting Rights Act, which required nine states to get federal approval of any election change, there were howls of anger and despair among liberals. They see the provision as vital to preventing new efforts to marginalize minority voters throughout the South, and they see no hope that Congress will act to create new protections.
But why the pessimism? The court practically invited Congress to draw up a new list of states needing preclearance -- based not on conditions in 1965, as the old law stipulated, but on conditions in 2013. And there may never be a better time to persuade Congress to act.
That's because it's never easy for Republicans to oppose something that sounds as vital as the Voting Rights Act. Some people might even get the idea they oppose voting rights for minorities. The last time it came up for renewal, not a single GOP senator voted no -- and only 33 House Republicans did.
In the aftermath of Mitt Romney's defeat, with the electorate becoming less white, the GOP has good reason not to further alienate black and Hispanic voters. If Democrats are willing to make a cause of the issue, they can make life unpleasant for Republican members who have appreciable numbers of minority constituents. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has urged his colleagues to get behind a rewrite of the law.
Getting a new measure passed may not be easy, but democracy isn't supposed to be. Those who think a new VRA is needed to protect minority voters need to stop lamenting and get to work.