Andrea Mitchell often straddles line between being a straight journalist and engaging in activist journalism to push liberal causes on NBC and MSNBC. Following the Supreme Court’s invalidation of section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Mitchell used her daily MSNBC show to push for Congress to pass new legislation in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
In service of that objective, Mitchell brought on civil rights movement icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to discuss his reaction to the ruling and to press him to engage members of Congress to pass legislation to update the Voting Rights Act to fit court scrutiny. Mitchell began the interview by asking Lewis for his immediate reaction to the nation's highest court “basically gutting the central enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act.” [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Of course, gutted is heavily loaded language and is not a fair description of what the Court did. Mitchell continued to play activist by pressing Lewis for a call to action:
What are the chances of mobilizing majorities to get this through, especially with the supermajorities to even get something on the floor in the Senate and the Hastert rule in the House?
Mitchell didn’t stop there, feeling it appropriate to reference the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to suggest it could lead to even greater change:
This August is going to be a very important anniversary of the March on Washington. When Dr. Martin Luther King gave the great speech on the mall and you were standing right at his side. Will this mobilize even more people to come to Washington, do you think? Should this be the spark to reignite that?
Continuing with her agenda, Mitchell tried to shame the Supreme Court for its decision, asking Rep. Lewis:
Did you think on that day when Lyndon Johnson signed this in to law that five members of a Supreme Court, the majority, would some day gut it the way it has today?
Mitchell concluded her softball advocacy interview by suggesting that the Congressman could “perhaps you could write a note to one of the justices" with the very same pen with which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
See relevant transcript below.
Andrea Mitchell Reports
June 25, 2013
1:05 p.m. Eastern
ANDREA MITCHELL: And it is the exact proper introduction for Georgia Congressman John Lewis who has been a national leader in the civil rights movement of course from the beginning, for five decades. Was there when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of course, was there, who put his life on the line in Selma to try to get that law passed. You join us now from Capitol Hill. Congressman, your immediate reaction to gutting -- basically gutting the central enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act?
JOHN LEWIS: Well, I must tell you, I was disappointed because I think what the court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart. It is a major setback. We may not have people being beaten today. Maybe they're not being denied the right to participate, to register to vote, they're not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses, but in the 11 states that are old Confederacy and even in some states outside of the south, there's been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period. These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it? I call upon my colleagues in the Congress to get it right, to fix it. We renewed the act in 2006, only 33 members in the House voted against it. Not a single member of the United States Senate in its base, on-- on testimony, on research, it is what's taken place in the past and what is still going on still today.
MITCHELL: But Congressman as you know better than I there is a lot more disagreement in Congress in both houses today than even a few years ago. So, what are the chances of mobilizing majorities to get this through, especially with the supermajorities to even get something on the floor in the Senate and the Hastert rule in the House?
LEWIS: It is going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. But people said the same thing in 1965. Because of what happened on Bloody Sunday, because of the murder of three civil rights workers that I knew, just 49 years ago this month. We must not forget our past we must not forget our history. If we forget it, we will repeat it.
MITCHELL: This August is going to be a very important anniversary of the March on Washington. When Dr. Martin Luther King gave the great speech on the mall and you were standing right at his side. Will this mobilize even more people to come to Washington, do you think? Should this be the spark to reignite that?
LEWIS: I think what happened today with the Supreme Court will motivate hundreds and thousands of people, African-American, Latino, white, Asian-American, Native American men, women, students, to come out. The vote is precious. It is sacred. When I spoke at the march on Washington on august 28, 1963, 50 years ago, I was reading a copy of a newspaper and I saw a group of women in southern Africa carrying signs saying "one man, one vote." And I said, one man, one vote is our cry, it is ours, too, and it must be our and its more relevant today than back in 1963.
MITCHELL: What is your message to the Supreme Court?
LEWIS: My message to the members of the United States Supreme Court is -- remember, don't forget our recent history. Walk in our shoes. Come and walk in our shoes. Come and walk in the shoes of those three young men that died in Mississippi. Come and walk in the shoes of those of us who walked across that bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.
MITCHELL: Did you think on that day when Lyndon Johnson signed this in to law that five members of a Supreme Court, the majority, would some day gut it the way it has today?
LEWIS: I didn't think that on that day when President Johnson signed the voting rights act, that I would live to see five members of the United States Supreme Court undo what Johnson did with those pens. And I have one of the pens that he used to sign that law at my home in Atlanta. And when I get home, I will pick up that pen.
MITCHELL: And perhaps you could write a note to one of the Justices. Mr. Lewis.
LEWIS: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much, Congressman. Thanks for being with us. As you know, it is always a privilege to talk to you.
LEWIS: Well thank you so much