As in other areas of civil rights law, where the original objective was to guarantee everyone an equal opportunity at the starting line of the race, the Voting Rights Act has evolved into a tool for trying to manipulate the outcome of the race.
So what? Many blacks will argue that the line between racial gerrymandering and commonplace political gerrymandering defies definition. The game is inexorably political and inexorably corrupt, so everyone needs to look out for their interests.
In this sense, I think President Johnson was correct. This is, indeed, "an American problem."
It says something about our great democracy when reality is that somewhere in the range of 99 percent of incumbents get re-elected. This reflects the combined reality of pre-engineered protected districts, campaign finance laws that penalize challengers and competition, and an inside-the-beltway power structure that is wedded to power and interests, and not freedom.
The Voting Rights Act passed at a moment in American history when idealism prevailed. It was a moment when the "dream" consisted of a society of law equally applied to all. This all has cynically morphed into a reality in which law is used for social engineering and political ends and which, in the 2006 version of the Voting Rights Act, produces more segregation.
Fact is, white Republicans are quite pleased with racial gerrymandering because it "bleaches" out surrounding districts also guaranteeing their seats.
Regardless of what Congress chooses to do with the Voting Rights Act, it is questionable that any improvement of note over our current reality will result (although I am sympathetic with moves to eliminate bilingual ballots).
If our concern is really a society that is freer and more just, I think there is one path, and it's not through social or political engineering.
Continue to strive to limit the scope of power of government. Know that our fate lies in our own hands, not in those of politicians.
Take responsibility for your own life and love your neighbor. I think this is the path to realize Dr. King's dream.