It is possible to have principled arguments with political conservatives on a wide array of public issues, ranging from late-term abortions to privatizing Social Security. But there is no principled debate about suppressing the right to vote. The creative use of obstacles to voting is sheer political opportunism. There are a few conservatives who will say that voting is a privilege, not a right. But they are living in the wrong country or the wrong century. In our democracy, that issue was settled a long time ago. Voting is a right.
The impact of freedom summer was electric. It added to the pressure on Congress to pass what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But first, there had to be more marches, more murders, and finally, after the Selma marches and LBJ's stunning "We Shall Overcome" speech, the federal guarantee of the right to register and vote -- in the same Act whose key provision the Roberts Court has overturned. What we need is a new Freedom Summer 2014, half a century after the original. If the forces of reaction are demanding photo ID cards, let's just go door to door and make sure that every eligible voter gets one.
The most powerful impact of the Supreme Court's decision on Voting Rights may not be on the size of the minority vote. Instead, its most profound -- and insidious -- effect may reside in the weight it lends to an emergent narrative that racism is no longer a serious problem and that the real threat to equal justice now is "reverse discrimination" against whites.