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How much have voting rights changed since the first march on Selma?

Chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC and political writer for the New York Times John Harwood joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how voting rights have changed the political landscape since the first march on Selma in 1965.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan, Pbs Newshour Weekend Anchor

    : So, how much did the Voting Rights Act change the political landscape over the past 50 years?

    Joining us now for some insight is John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and political writer for “The New York Times.”

    So, we’ve thought about that big picture, the march that is seared in people’s minds. What kind of changes happened since then, especially for voting rights?

  • John Harwood, “the New York Times”

    : Well, first of all, you’ve seen a complete collapse of Republican support among African Americans. That happened very quickly. Richard Nixon got about a third of black vote in 1960. Barry Goldwater got 6 percent. Republicans have never approached that Nixon level since.

    Second, you’ve had blacks and non-whites in general, including Hispanics and Latinos, expand as a proportion of the electorate. And over time, that has worked to the advantage of the Democratic Party. 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was re-elected, whites provided about 95 percent of all the votes cast in the election. In 19 — in 2012, rather, whites were about 72 percent. And that growth, given the shift of whites to very dominant support for the Republican Party, non-whites for the Democratic Party, has produced a racially polarized electorate, but one that, given want growth of non-whites, has worked to the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections lately.

  • Hari Sreenivasan

    : So, there are Democrats and some Republicans that will be there today or through the weekend in Selma. But what happens when they go back to Washington?

  • John Harwood

    : When they go back to Washington, they’re going to take the places that they’ve become accustomed to in this polarized environment that we’re — have been living with for some time. President George W. Bush is going to represent Republicans but you don’t have Republican leaders in Congress going down. Although, interestingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell himself was a supporter of civil rights at the time of Selma, as was some of the Republican politicians that he worked for in Kentucky at that time.

    But we’ve seen a pretty dramatic shift in the party’s stance on civil right-related issues. Republicans have become almost entirely a conservative party. Democrats left of center, and that is the — those are the contours that they’re going to resume when they get back to Washington.

  • Hari Sreenivasan

    : How have some of the receipt haven’t, the 2013 Supreme Court decision, and the Voting Rights Amendment Act that are trying to work their way through Congress, how are they impacting this conversation?

  • John Harwood

    : Well, you’ve seen southern states try to get out from under the aegis of the Voting Rights Act, and they’ve had some success in the courts at doing that, reducing the burden of proof on southern states to justify their electoral arrangements and processes. While that’s gone on, you’ve had a reversal in the makeup of legislatures and also congressional delegations from southern states where pretty much all the Democrats now are black from southern state, and there are no white southern Democrats left in the Congress, very few, if any.

    And that has changed the political conversation. It’s made the South the epicenter of the modern Republican Party, and one of the challenges for Republicans going forward is trying to break out of that base, expand their support in the Northeast and the Midwest, if not the Pacific Coast, which is very strongly in the Democrats’ favor at the moment.

  • Hari Sreenivasan

    : All right. John Harwood, joining us from Washington, D.C., thanks so much.

  • John Harwood

    : You bet.

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