An Absurd Call for ‘Vote Reparations’

Just when it seems that the Left’s extremism has reached its outer limits, a new radical idea comes forward. Brandon Hasbrouck, a professor at Washington and Lee University, has taken to the pages of The Nation, the Left’s preeminent periodical, to advocate so-called “vote reparations.”

It’s an idea more dangerous than it is farfetched (though it is that as well). The scheme recommends double-counting the votes of black Americans. This doesn’t merely set aside the one-man/one-vote ideal that our republic operates on; it obliterates it. This proposal wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, nor should it.

Counting some votes more than others is a throwback to a bygone era that Americans — black and white — fought to overcome. Perhaps Hasbrouck has forgotten that one of the primary aims of Jim Crow was to prevent the counting of the votes of citizens in communities and states solely on the basis of race.

Trotting out the usual woke critiques of the hour, Hasbrouck attacks the very foundations of our country’s constitutional design — including the Electoral College, the existence of the United States Senate, and even our independent federal judiciary — labeling them all legacies of slavery.

How does he get to his radical solution? Resting on half-truths, misrepresentations, and the odious disparate-impact theory, Hasbrouck claims that today, “Black votes in this country are worth less than white votes.” Is this because of official state sanction and restriction? Is it possibly because of corporate practices that might be proxies for government action? No, it’s not, and he provides no evidence to support that proposition.

The professor claims that the votes of black people count less solely because of where they live. Though America’s Constitution explicitly protects your freedom to travel within the U.S. and to live wherever you desire, Hasbrouck has decided there are not enough black voters in places like Wyoming — and too many in Georgia and Michigan. Because they have voluntarily chosen not to re-locate to the states Hasbrouck has selected, the entire election system should be thrown out.

A better question might be: Why should we assume that any American state should have any specific racial make-up? Thirteen percent of the population is black — why should we expect every state to have the same overall racial demographics? Furthermore, why should we desire race to play any role in where Americans choose to reside?

Moreover, Hasbrouck conveniently ignores that mass migration has been a hallmark of America’s more than two centuries of existence. Black, white, and brown families have moved to locales all across America. Just recently, the pandemic has led to significant relocations across the country.

Hasbrouck would have us believe that black people aren’t free to relocate or stay where they want. Thus we’re left with what he calls “unequal representation” of black voters in jurisdictions that don’t have political clout.

Citing a litany of ‘woke’ policy planks that double-weighting black votes would address, Hasbrouck claims that black lives would matter, unequal health-care outcomes would end, and substandard education would finally be eliminated — just by throwing out this fundamental precept of one man, one vote.

This is terribly misguided. Chief Justice John Roberts famously wrote in a school desegregation opinion that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” The Supreme Court, moreover, has consistently scrutinized policies that nakedly use race as the sole basis for policy-making, whether in employment, education, or even voting.

Tragically, racial distributive justice is the raison d’etre of Hasbrouck’s proposal. It’s worth remembering that geographic separatism isn’t a new idea. Nor is it a good one. Racially separate policies are overwhelmingly discredited and known to be meritless all over the world. Believing that a South African-style election protocol would improve America says more about the sponsor of this idea than it says about America. This idea isn’t just bad; it’s unconstitutional. That’s why it doesn’t stand a chance of enactment. Sadly, it’s not seen plainly as the nakedly racist plan it is.


Horace Cooper is a legal fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and co-chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network. This first appeared at National Review.

New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

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