by Robert Emmett Murphy, Jr.
It took America Almost 200 Years for Democracy to be Made Enforceable by Law; It Took Less Than 50 Years to Slit Democracy’s Throat and Leave Her to Bleed Out on the Court House Steps.
You probably don’t know why he was important, but Sylvester Magee died in 1971. He was the last living former American slave. Most of us don’t get it, but slavery is just barely out of the realm of America’s living history, and this is demonstrated by the fact that Sylvester’s life over-lapped the lives of virtually every person reading these words now.
Another thing you probably don’t know is that a Americans live under that beneficence of a Second Constitution, not the original drafted and signed by they founders over an arduous period between 1786 and 1790, but radically new one, born of a new interpretation of the original document, an interpretation that required not one word be changed, but was guided by a flurry of Amendments, three in a mere five years (which in Constitutional history is a shockingly short period of time) that made it clear that the Constitution was not merely a restraint placed on the Federal Government to protect us from tyranny, but the law of the land, that all institutions were answerable to.
Prior to the Civil War, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution were not enforceable when the individual faced the tyranny of a State or Local Government, which were bound by smaller, less-enlightened, State Constitutions–for example, seven of these explicitly forbid certain people from holding public office because of their spiritual beliefs.
These are the three Amendents that changed it all:
13th (1865) Abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime 14th (1868) Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post-Civil War issues
15th (1870) Prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude
The first of these was passed before the Civil War was quite over, but it would take literally another 100 years for their impact to be fully realized. Achingly slowly, first through the Supreme Court of the United states, and then through the United States Congress, the Constitutions authority was expanded and its protections were extended to all Americans. That intervention was absolutely necessary, as the former slave states never truly accepted their defeat in the Civil War, and still felt entitled to subjugate their brothers and sisters on the basis of color of skin and/or family heritage. These unreformed seditionists were able to continue their near-hegemony on power though other means, first through terrorism, and then that terrorism helped give birth to the abominably corrupt Jim Crow Laws.
Between 1890 and 1910, ten of the eleven former Confederate states either drafted new State Constitutions or added amendments to existing Constitutions that effectively disfranchised almost all blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites through a combination of poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and residency and record-keeping requirements. Taken together, they assured that for millions of Americans the guarantees of participation in our Democracy laid out in the Fifteenth Amendment (ratified February 3, 1870, nearly five years after the end of slavery) were as empty a platitude as the statement “All men are created equal” almost one hundred years before.
The exact text of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution: Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 2 will be all important to what follows.
The Federal Government would not live up to its responsibilities under Section two until the passing of Voting Rights Act in 1965. Please, try to understand this–before the passing of the VRA, there was not one single day in the history of our country that America could honestly say we were even attempting to be a Democracy.
This also brought to a climax the most radical sea-change in the American Political Party system since the stunning election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, the election the sparked the Civil War in the first place.
The Republican Party was founded in 1854 as a third party, and was the only third party in American history to capture the White House. They were explicitly abolitionist, and represented somewhat Progressive politics and a stronger Federalism, but come the 1930s would become increasingly Conservative, a process that would be mostly completed in the 1970s. In a very real sence, Republican ideology was always shaped by reaction–they defined themselves in the beginning, and through these changes, as being whatever the older Democratic Party was not.
The Democratic Party was Conservative, favored States Rights, and until they were crushed in the Civil War, were pro-slavery and pro-sedition. After the Civil War they were Pro-Jim Crow. The Democrats started to abandon that ideology starting in the 1930s with the New Deal Era, that process completing itself in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement. The easiest way of describing what happened is that as Teddy Roosevelt lost his seat at the Republican table, his fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, found an open seat at the Democratic table.
Congress took charge of the campaign to assure that all Americans enjoyed the same Constitutional protections during the Civil Rights era. This is the Democratic Party’s proudest moment, but it should not be forgotten that the passage of the then radical Civil Rights Act of 1964 required a bipartisan coalition to overcome bi-partisan opposition. The fiercest opposition came from a group of Southern Democrats known as the Dixiecrats. Virtually every historian gives the main credit of its passage to Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who would see more Civil Rights legislation passed than any other President in American history, but the of the four Senators who spearhead the plan to break the 54-day Dixiecrat filibuster (Dirksen, Kuchel, Humphrey, and Mansfield) two were Republican.
More important than the Civil Right’s act was the Voters Rights Act of 1965, which ended Jim Crow once and for all. This was a shocking historical turn-about, as the Democratic Party that had so successfully blocked black candidates from office for so long were now the same party that destroyed those barriers. But again, Johnson had to rely on a bipartisan coalition to overcome bi-partisan opposition, and again, the fiercest opposition came from the Dixiecrats.
This would prove to be the Dixiecrats’ Waterloo. In the wake of this, about 20% of the Dixiecrats switched parties to escape the Democrats new Pro-Civil Rights orthodoxy. All the rest either were forced out of office of had to make public mea cupas.
While the Democrats were doing most of the conscious reinventing, the Republicans seemed to be more in reaction mode. This is demonstrated by the emergence of the Southern Strategy, where Republicans reached out to the white rage of Democrats who didn’t like the newly minted, somewhat Progressive, stronger Federalist, Pro-Civil Rights Party. Even Republicans who were not especially racist would allow their campaigns to race-bait shamelessly. Notable in this was Republican President Richard Nixon who, though he dramatically expanded affirmative action, also sought to weaken the Voters Rights Act to take the “monkey…off the backs off the South.”
Nixon failed to weaken the VRA, but the die was cast. The next two Republican Presidents would also attack the law. Their motive was born of the fact that the Civil Rights Revolution put the black and other minority constituencies firmly in the Democratic camp. Across the subsequent years, every attempt by the Republicans to threaten black suffrage succeeded only in guaranteeing that blacks would even more overwhelming embrace the Democrats, perhaps forevermore.
The “Southern Strategy” would in time corrupt the Republican party from within. Today, the vast majority of young Americans see that party as backwards-looking, intolerant, and racist, as demonstrated in a recent (just barely post-2012 election) study by the College Republicans. It was also ultimately self-defeating, as articulated by Sen Lindsey Graham, who, even during the celebration of the 2012 Republican Primary, was prophesying Mitt Romney’s humiliating defeat, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
That was almost 50 years into the VRA, and by then, the Republican party was no longer fighting it, but embracing it. Why? A lot of reasons, but a very important one is that every effort to gut the VRA failed.
It took only a month after it 1965 passing for the first Constitutional challenge to the VRA to be filed. It came from the former slave state and active Jim Crow State, South Carolina. At the time the Governor was a Democrat; one of it’s Senators in Washington was a Democrat, the other the most notorious of the party-switching-Dixiecrats Strom Thurmond; and five of six Representatives were Democrats, and the only Republican among them was another party-switching-Dixiecrat, Albert Watson. After that, every single challenge to the VRA came from the Republican Party.
The law’s constitutionality was challenged before the Supreme Court in 1966, 1973, 1980, 1999, and 2009, and upheld each time. Every time it came up for reauthorization before Congress, 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006, the margins of support increased and the law was strengthened. After the end of the Reagan administration (the last President who tried to weaken it, and who left office in 1989) the bipartisan support of it became nothing short of breathe-taking. In 2006, the margin in favor was 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate.
But of course that was before the contentious and racially-charged ultra-Conservative revival of the “Tea Party Revolution” in 2010. After that fateful election, Congress ceased to function altogether.
Most of the enforcement power of the VRA rests in Section 5, wherein in specific districts, and several entire states, with a history of race-based voter disenfranchisement, must submit all changes to voting laws, eligibility rules, and district maps, to the Depart of Justice for preapproval. It also puts the burden of proof on the state to establish that these changes are not discriminatory. And enforcement is all important, because the lack of enforcement is what made the Fifteenth Amendment so nearly meaningless for so very long. The formula establishing which districts and states effected by Section 5 are found in Section 4. It is more a list than an actual formula, it was based on said district or state having discriminatory voting devices on the books and/or a voter turnout of less than 50 percent in the 1964 election. It includes the Bronx, New York, where I grew up, and Brooklyn, New York, where I live now.
If there’s no Section 4, there’s no Section 5. Section 4 has always the main target of Constitutional challenges of the VRA. As far as I know, neither the Bronx or Brooklyn have displayed any interest in challenging the VRA. The challenges almost always come from former slave-states/Jim Crow states, and I do not believe there’s any coincidence in that.
When the VRA was before the Supreme Court in 2009, and there was demands by the Court that Section 4’s formula be updated. Understanding this demand is key to understanding what the Supreme Court did June 25th, 2013.
First off, you do not have a Constitutional right to vote. I know you think you do, but you don’t. Though several Constitutional Amendments forbid specific types of voting discrimination, it is still up to the states to decide who is and is not a legitimate voter. Simply being and American citizen is not legitimate enough participate in our Democracy. Both parties have exploited this weakness in our system, attempting to come up with legalistic excuses to disenfranchize any group they can identify as being more favorable to the other party. There are hundreds of ways of creating obstacles to a demographic without actually admitting to any of the small handful of specifically forbidden discriminations are in play.
Not only the VRA, but all Americans voting rights, have been under attack by the Supreme Court itself for more than a decade now, and the Justices who display the least respect for Democracy are all appointees of Republican Presidents.
Ronald Reagan, the last American President to try to weaken the VRA had appointed Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia to the Court and elevating William Rehnquist to Chief Justice. The Conservative majority was locked-in when the wholly unqualified Clarence Thomas was appointed by George Bush, Sr.
In 2000, these five guaranteed that the ballots cast in a Presidential election by tens of thousands of Floridians would not be officially counted (not to mention the almost 100,000 who were simply denied the right to cast a ballot) thus rendering the democratic process a complete farce. The son of a former President and brother of the then Florida Governor (whose policies and appointees created the fiasco) was be anti-democratically appointed to an office he was unable to earn. Further repercussions of this decision would include historically-high budget-deficits, three or more unfunded wars, legalized torture, the worst financial crisis to 70 years, and continuance of the Court’s Conservative Majority with the appointment of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Roberts is especially significant, as a young lawyer in the DOJ during the Reagan Administration he was part of the team that had worked diligently to weaken the VRA. He is now Chief Justice.
In 2008, in the Citizens United decision, this Gang of Five line-up (Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas) overturned a piece of bi-partisan anti-corruption legislation that restricted the amount corporations could invest in a political campaigns (read: How much they could spend on buying a candidate/election). This new-legalized bribery-lite has ushered in an error of unlimited, and frequently untraceable, campaign money generally for the creation and distribution of wholly dishonest attack-ads that a Candidate would not be held accountable for. It’s worth noting that at least two of these Justices, Roberts and Thomas, receive financial remunerations for the very groups that benefit from the Citizens United decision. Had any other judge in the country sat on a case that they received money from one of the interested parties, they would face disbarment; but the Supreme Court is exempted from those rules.
And in 2013, only three years after the last time VRA was heard before the Supreme Court, it was put on trial again. Returning to an issue so quickly is unusual, and was clearly a result of a combination of political lobbying be Conservative groups and the do-nothing Congress’ failure to follow up on the Court’s 2009 directives.
Where this was going to go was obvious during oral arguments when Justice Scalia said the following:
“Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.
“The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.
“Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”
When Scalia described a law that protected American citizens from demonstratable, institutionalized, racism as a “racial entitlement,” there was an audible gasps from journalists listening. His theory seems to be that the Supreme Court should stay out of questions of racial injustice unless, at long last, it something that Congress finally seems to be in agreement on.
That same day, Justice Sotomayor challenged his theories with her own line of questioning, making headlines as she implicitly (or maybe explicitly implicitly) underlining Scalia poorly disguised racism. She pointed out that the plaintiff in this case, Shelby County, Alabama, “may be the wrong party bringing this” as Alabama rates remains even today as one of the worst offenders of Federal voting rights laws in the US.
Then Justice Kagan picked up the torch by reciting Alabama’s current record under existing civil rights laws, noting that the state would be the No. 1 offender in one category, and the No. 2 in another. “Under any formula that Congress could devise [for coverage under Section 5], it would capture Alabama.”
But Sotomayor and Kagan (and Ginsburg, and Breyer) do not a majority make. The Gang of Five not only overturned another piece of legislation that had bipartisan support, but also almost 50 years of Supreme Court prescient. They stripped the VRA of Section 4, and Uncle Thom(as) went as far as declaring Section 5 also unconstitutional–but no one else went as far as that, they were satisfied by merely rendering it meaningless.
The majority opinion, Roberts argued that the formula in Section 4 was “…based on 40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day…Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. ..[v]oter turnout and registration rates’ in covered jurisdictions ‘now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels… [We] cannot justify the considerable burdens created by Section 5.”
Robert’s statements concerning “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare” is demonstrably false.
Since the 2010 “Tea Party Revolution” there has been an unprecedented (or at least since 1965 unprecedented) wave of voter suppression laws passed nation-wide. Six of nine states fully covered by Section 5, all in the South, passed new voting restrictions. All were pushed through by suddenly empowered Republican legislatures in the lead-up to the 2012 election in an attempt to unseat a dark-skinned, incumbent President. That Presidential campaign featured the race-card was played openly by several Republican Candidates and even more explicitly in ads paid for by the corporately funded Super-PACs that only legally existed because of the tender mercies of the Gang of Five’s Citizen’s United decision. Thirty-one discriminatory voting laws have been blocked under Section 5 in the last three since years alone.
In other words, at this juncture, we need the VRA more than we have in more than a generation. And it is at just this juncture that the Gang of Five gutted it.
A short list of the most important VRA victories of the last 25 years:
1987–A Mississippi law dating back to 1892 that enacted a dual voter registration system ‘to disenfranchise Black voters’ was struck down (that was knocked down under Section 2, not 4 & 5).
1990–Dallas County, Alabama, sought to purge its voter rolls of many black voters. DOJ rejected the purge as discriminatory, noting that it would have disqualified many citizens from voting “simply because they failed to pick up or return a voter update form, when there was no valid requirement that they do so.” (This one was under sections 4 & 5, and has a more than passing resemblance to Florida’s uninhibited voter-suppression, which directly contributed to the fiasco of the 2000 Presidential election, but unfortunately, Florida is not under the auspices of Sections 4 & 5).
1992–Mississippi again, when it attempted to reenact dual registration with a law near-identical to the overturned in 1987, only to have it knocked down again, this time under Sections 4 & 5.
1993–the City of Millen, Georgia, proposed to delay the election in a majority-black district by two years, leaving that district without representation on the city council while the neighboring majority white district would have three representatives. DOJ blocked the proposal.
Same year, and same district–The county then sought to move a polling place from a predominantly black neighborhood in the city to an inaccessible location in a predominantly white neighborhood outside city limits. Again blocked by the DOJ.
2000–Albany, Georgia, proposed a redistricting plan that DOJ found to be ‘designed with the purpose to limit and retrogress the increased black voting strength…in the city as a whole.’
2001–Kilmichael, Mississippi, the mayor and all-white five-member Board of Aldermen of abruptly canceled the town’s election after ‘an unprecedented number’ of African American candidates announced they were running for office. DOJ required an election, and the town elected its first black mayor and three black aldermen.
2003–Charleston County, South Carolina, after African-Americans won a majority of the seats on the school board for the first time in history, the County proposed an at-large voting mechanism for the board. The proposal, made without consulting any of the African-American members of the school board, was found to be an ‘exact replica’ of an earlier voting scheme that a federal court had already determined violated the VRA.
2004–Waller County, Texas, after vainly threatening criminal prosecution of two black students because the they announced their intention to run for office, the county then attempted to reduce the availability of early voting cites near a historically black university.
2005–Texas, after the Republicans took a majority of the House seats for the first time since Reconstruction they gained control over a controversial, mid-decade, redistricting project. DOJ concluded that the final map violated the VRA, “the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts.” Texas appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld DOJ’s determination in one of the two districts–23rd congressional district, which was racially gerrymandered, apparently to try to protect a Hispanic Republican representative. The map of the district had to be redrawn with oversight by the court. This plan was spearheaded by former Congressman Tom DeLay who, in 2011, was convicted of felony money laundering charges in connection with a campaign finance investigation (he is currently free on bail while appealing his conviction arguing that the Citizen’s United decision made his actions wholly legal).
2006–Texas again, attempting to redraw a congressional district to reduce the strength of Latino voters. DOJ found “the mark of intentional discrimination that could give rise to an equal protection violation,” and ordered the district redrawn in compliance with the VRA.
Same state, same year–In retaliation, Texas sought to undermine this Court’s order by curtailing early voting in the district, but was blocked by the Section 5 pre-clearance requirement.
2008–Shelby County, Alabama, was challenged under the VRA based on a complaint by a citizens group. Though the initial complaint proved unfounded, the investigation unveiled a cesspool of other discriminatory practices, and the county was blocked from eliminating the only black city council district in the city of Calera. This became the basis of the Supreme Court case.
2012–Texas, a law that would have required voters to show photo identification was knocked down, ruling that the legislation would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens” potentially disenfranchising as many as 800,000 already registered voters who lacked government-issued photo ID.
Same year, same state–controversial Texas redistricting maps were found to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, effectively killing the new districts before they could take effect for the November 6 presidential election.
The major complaint about the VRA how dated Section 4’s formulas were. But after the DOJ intervention in Shelby County, Alabama, in 2008, Law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer surveyed data on racial stereotypes from that election and found that “[The VRA] is remarkably well tailored to the geography of anti-black prejudice.”
By killing Section 4, Section 5 has been erased. Though discriminatory laws can still be challenged in court, the process has now been made more lengthy, and the burden of proof has been shifted off the accused government and onto the aggrieved citizen.
Justice Ginsberg wrote the dissenting opinion, which was utterly withering, and left the Gang of Five’s conspiracy against Democracy no where to hide:
“The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making, Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.
“The Voting Rights Act became one of the most consequential, efficacious, and amply justified exercises of federal legislative power in our Nation’s history. The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclearance is no longer needed. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption—that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrimination are identified and eliminated—was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the ‘variety and persistence’ measures designed to impair minority voting rights. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.
“The question this case presents is who decides whether, as currently operative, Section 5 remains justifiable, this Court, or a Congress charged with the obligation to enforce the post–Civil War Amendments ‘by appropriate legislation.’ With overwhelming support in both Houses, Congress concluded that, for two prime reasons, Section 5 should continue in force, unabated. First, continuance would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and second, continuance would guard against backsliding. Those assessments were well within Congress’ province to make and should elicit this Court’s unstinting approbation.
“Demand for a record of violations equivalent to the one earlier made would expose Congress to a catch-22. If the statute was working, there would be less evidence of discrimination, so opponents might argue that Congress should not be allowed to renew the statute. In contrast, if the statute was not working, there would be plenty of evidence of discrimination, but scant reason to renew a failed regulatory regime.”
Comedian Steven Colbert put it more succinctly, “Yes! For some reason, since the Voting Rights Act was passed, things have changed dramatically. Therefore, we can get rid of it now! It’s just like those outdated labor laws that prohibit children from threading bobbins in a loom. A kid hasn’t been sucked into one of those machines in years! Let’s stop playing nanny here.”
Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, the state which has been trying to over-turn the VRA since before the ink dried on it in 1965, was especially hypocritical when trying to defend the Gang of Five’s decision, “The Supreme Court decision now puts South Carolina on equal footing with every other state in the nation. As a South Carolinian, I’m glad we will no longer be singled out and treated differently than our sister states.”
But isn’t this the same guy who last year was bemoaning the fact that, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Well, reducing the political options of angry blacks and hispanics seems a solution. And he seems to have forgotten all about what happened in Charleston County, South Carolina, in 2003.
Not even two hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott vowed to immediately implement the 2012 voter ID law that was blocked VRA. He fired off tweets, “Eric Holder can no longer deny [voter ID] in [Texas].” He went one step farther, “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature [which in the past had been blocked by the VRA] may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”
That was only the first. All six of the states formally covered by Section 4 & 5 that had new voting restrictions/manipulations shut down by the DOJ on the last three years have started the process of reinstituting those same restrictions. Only a month after the decision, Justice Ginsberg mourned, “I didn’t want to be right, but sadly I am.”
Stronger words came from John Lewis. In the early 1960s he was nearly beaten to death by racist thugs while agitating for the passage of the VRA and other civil rights legislation. Today he’s the Democratic Party’s elected representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. He released this statement following the decision:
“Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965…
“These men never stood in unmovable lines. They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs. No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights.”
Even before the decision, in the North Carolina Statehouse, leading Republicans like Bill Cook, Norman Sanderson, Ronald Rabin, Neal Hunt and Shirley B. Randleman are attempting to strip selected citizens of the right to vote through a law they have sponsored–Senate Bill 666 (such a perfect number) which is cleverly not-obviously-race-based, but it’s voter-supression agenda is undisguised. It would eliminate the $2,500 dependent child tax deduction for parents if their child votes in the town or city other than the parent’s home. It’s obviously targeting young men and women attending college, it’s an attempt to shut down student voting drives, marches to the polls and make it harder for young adults to become participating members of our democracy. It would throw off voter representation in counties like Watauga and Orange, where college voters have been a key part of the Democratic Party’s dominance. (How very similar this is to Waller County, Texas in 2004).
This same bill would also cut a week off of the Early Voting period and forbid counties from having more than one location for Early Voting — no matter how large the county (again, how very similar this is to Waller County, Texas in 2004).
Oh, yes, there will also be new Voter ID rules (one more time, how very similar to Texas). An estimated 500,000 North Carolinians lack the ID needed to vote under the proposed law, a third of them African Americans.
There is no justification for these provisions except to stop people from voting. As has been established in anti-voter-suppression law suits in other states, curbing early voting is a tactic to marginalize the working poor, especially minority voters, who are more likely to vote Democratic.
Hundreds of North Carolina citizens have been arrested over the past couple months while protesting these laws.
That same week, Supreme Court also struck down the sixteen-year-old Defense of Marriage Act. This time, Scalia was not in the Majority, and in his outraged dissent he underlined the depth of his hypocrisy, “We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”
Dear Mr, Scalia, what to hell do you think the VRA was? (Passed almost 50 years old, but reauthorized and strengthened a mere six years ago)
Our do-nothing Congress could still fix this, but they probably won’t. There seems no political will to make Section 5 apply nation-wide. Further, as Law Professor Nate Perily wrote, “no objective statistical criteria could have added the most recent bad actors (Ohio and Florida) to the list of currently covered jurisdictions…The fact that Section 5 was geographically targeted has always been seen as one of its constitutional saving graces.”
Not long ago, Congressman Steny Hoyer was asked what Congress would do if the Court ruled against the VRA, “I think right now it would be difficult, because I don’t think, frankly, that the Republican majority in the House would allow it on the floor. And I don’t think the Republican minority in the Senate would refrain from filibustering it. So I don’t think there would be much opportunity for legislative response unless the Democrats take control of the House, in which case there clearly would be a legislative response.”
And therein may lie (for Conservatives) an unintended consequence, a potential black and Hispanic backlash against the Republican party, just as 2010-2012’s race-baiting and failed voter suppression campaigns resulted in proportional black turnout surpassing white turnout for the first time in US history. Jotaka Eaddy, director of voting rights at the NAACP, “If Congress fails to act it will trigger a very [strong] response from the electorate.”
Way back in 1964, in the lead-up to the passage of the VRA, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his patented racism, vulgarity, and cynicism, hit the nail right on the head:
“I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years…These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”
This quote is often cited by Conservatives trying to tarnish Johnson’s Civil Rights record, and fair enough… except that these same Conservatives keep on insisting on making the prediction come true.
It keeps coming true because the legislation did ultimately make a difference.
Like a black man in the White House level of difference.
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