Jack Kemp

A common expression has it that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Unfortunately, that's exactly the message the GOP is sending to the residents of our nation's capital by its recent actions in trying to defeat the bipartisan DC Voting Rights Act on a procedural motion.

The Republicans in the House, as well as advisers to the president - by threatening a veto - are in danger not only of indifference to district citizens, but in fact they're showing disdain for a city predominantly governed and populated by people of color. This can be interpreted as racially insensitive at best and racially prejudiced at worst. Either way, it's really dumb politics because the party of Lincoln, Douglass, Grant, Eisenhower and Bush 41, among others, is sacrificing its civil rights soul for a mess of political pottage.

I told a high-ranking member of the president's staff last week that his strict constructionist view of the Constitution puts the White House in the position of rolling back the clock to some rather dark days. In other words, using Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution that says "people of the states shall elect members of the House" is to deny the equally valid clause (i.e., Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17), which empowers Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over the District."

This "District clause," as Viet Dinh, the eminent Georgetown University law professor, eloquently testified (he helped draft the president's Patriot Act), does give Congress the constitutional authority to guarantee voting rights to district residents in the House of Representatives irrespective of Article 1, Section 2.

The argument that allowing the people in our nation's capital the right to vote is unconstitutional pains me very much. The Supreme Court should make that decision.

Remember that at one time the Constitution defined black people as three-fifths of a human being. Blacks not only couldn't own property, they were considered property and women couldn't vote. Up until 1956, blacks were going to public school in a demeaning apartheid-like segregation, upheld by the very Constitution that these strict constructionists now use as an argument against allowing D.C. residents the vote in the people's House.

If it seems that I'm playing the "race card," remember "the card" that President Lincoln used for emancipation and President Grant used to require these United States to live up to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Indeed, Grant was the first president to send federal troops to help guarantee blacks the right to vote in Mississippi and Louisiana.


Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp is Founder and Chairman of Kemp Partners and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com.
 
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