Voting Rights Failures, the Israel Issue, Presidential Pronunciation

Why is no one outraged at what an abysmal sign of failure it is that 41 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the best blacks can do is get it extended for another 25 years?

I’m all for extension. Don’t get me wrong.

But take a minute to mourn 40 years passed, and the most basic problem of a democracy remains so fundamentally unsolved that we have unanimity for renewal of what was once thought a drastic solution.

What a terrible pity.

Victory is saying that the system and the people in it cannot be trusted after FORTY years. Victory is admitting failure. Hooray. What’s defeat? Not admitting failure, I suppose.

Understand, the Voting Rights Act is premised on principles that are accepted nowhere else in the law: we presume that people are being discriminated against based on race; we presume that people vote for candidates based on race, and vote in blocs based on race; we treat states differently based on their past history of discrimination against blacks.

There is unanimous approval to do these things because when it comes to the franchise, the most fundamental privilege of all, we take no chances; the situation in the sixties was sufficiently dire when it came to voting rights for blacks that only by imposing blanket supervision and monitoring results was there any confidence that things would improve.

And did they? Is anyone asking?

"If this is such a good system, why hasn’t it worked?" is a question no one wants to confront, perhaps because it doesn’t yield polite answers, and most of them are unwilling to take the more radical steps necessary to make real change happen. This is how Clinton and Lani Guinier got into trouble, if you have a memory for history.

Moreover, even if you accept racially polarized voting as the system’s dirty little secret and try to build it into the way maps are drawn and supervision is conducted, the problem in the next 25 years may well turn out to be drawing the lines of race as clearly as we once did, given that we are becoming more diverse, in more diverse ways.

Maybe the changing culture will break down the polarization and address the obstacles that have served as barriers to participation in the democratic process. One thing is certain: the Voting Rights Act hasn’t, not yet, anyway.

On Israel

As the fighting continues, the Secretary General of the United Nations condemns Israel’s operation as “excessive use of force.”

Where have you heard that before? Just those words. I took them from Friday’s headlines, but it could have been a Friday in 1967, or one in 1973.

This is what I grew up with. The world against Israel. Passing the hat in Temple. Condemnation pouring down.

In a way, it’s significantly better today than it used to be. Religious conservatives support Israel with as much vigor as liberal Democrats and it’s times like this you’re especially grateful.

The number of elected officials of both parties asserting Israel’s right to defend herself is an army compared to what it used to be, before Israel’s base grew and got more organized.

The trouble, ironically, is on the left. We could blame ourselves, say we ignored our base, but it is happening all over the world. And if the support of the Sean Hannity’s and the Bill O’Reilly’s is most welcome in synagogues right around now, the challenge on the left could not be greater. Now, of course, they are armed and dangerous.

It is precisely when Israel goes on the attack against the terrorists who plague it that she comes under greatest fire around the rest of the world. And it is during just such times that Israel needs her friends here to stand up, consistent with United States policy, and defend her actions.

By “consistent with United States policy,” I mean in a phrase to get rid of the dual loyalty argument, which deserves no more respect than that. We are loyal to the United States. We love Israel.

So long as it is consistent with United States policy, we will follow our passion. Why is that difficult to understand? If not now, when?

Presidential Pronunciation

My friend Jack used to say that showing up was 90 percent of everything. By that measure, George W. Bush is well on his way with the "N – A – A- C –P." He pronounced the group’s name that way, when they pronounce it "N—double A – C – P," and it was remarked upon in the press, and apparently by many delegates.

Sort of makes you wonder. On the one hand, someone should just tell the president about the pronunciation. On the other hand, who cares?

Want to read what you and other readers had to say about Susan's previous columns, as well as Susan's response to her email? Click here for the Bluestreak Mailbag.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regulalry on the Fox News Channel.

Respond to the Writer