In July of 2006, the Senate reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a count of 98-0. Among those 98 votes were the votes of Senators Shelby, Burr, and Blunt. If all three of these people announced that they were voting to restore the protections that they voted for in 2006, then everybody could tell Sinema and Manchin to pound sand and pass the voting-rights bills currently before the Senate. But there’s no indication that any of the five retirees plan to do anything else but stand in solidarity with their vote-suppressing brethren.
It looks like the rubber is going to meet the road in the Senate on voting rights sometime next week. And almost all of the attention has been directed toward Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who are standing in the way of reforming the filibuster. But I’d like to direct the spotlight toward five revolting, abject cowards on the other side of the aisle: to wit, Senators Richard Shelby, Richard Burr, Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey. All of them are Republicans. All of them have announced that they will not be running for re-election.
They have no excuse. None of them is likely to run again for anything, so there is no sanction that the former president* and his agitated base can drop on them. Presumably, after many years in the Senate, they’re all independently wealthy. There’s no financial incentive for them to vote the way they are likely to vote. They literally have nothing to lose—except their spines, which they apparently put into cold storage in 2017 anyway. All one can conclude is that none of them really supported the VRA in the first place, but none of them wanted to stand out on the previous reauthorization roll calls, all of which were going to be lopsided, so voting against it would be conspicuous and embarrassing.
However, in 2013, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts declared the Day of Jubilee and led the gutting of the VRA. That gave everybody clearance to let their vote-suppressing freak flag fly, including, apparently, these five under-the-radar chickenshits. I mean, Portman’s even supposed to be a “moderate,” as though that word has any meaning at all anymore. Manchin and Sinema are supposed to be “moderates,” too. God save us from all of them.
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Charles P. Pierce
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.
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