A lot of people are upset about Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Right’s Act. They feel that it is a direct assault on the rights of minorities who will now be at the mercy of Republican controlled legislatures. Voter ID laws will progress without that pesky “pre-clearance” interference from the Department of Justice. This is not a good day for liberals.
Via Huffington Post:
Both MSNBC and NBC simultaneously aired legal correspondent Pete Williams’ take on the case. Williams said that the Court had struck down a “key part” of the Act by ruling that one of its sections was unconstitutional.
“It’s a huge defeat for the civil rights community on the most important civil rights law ever passed,” he said.
That view was echoed across other networks. ABC’s Terry Moran, for instance, said that “right now, there is no Voting Rights Act operative in the United States.”
On the other hand, the right is quite happy about the VRA being temporarily gutted (more on that in a minute). Justice Scalia encapsulated the feeling of the perpetually aggrieved right wing of the country when he referred to the VRA as a “racial entitlement” It’s as if ensuring that black people being allowed to fairly exercise their right to vote was a deliberate assault on the rights of white people. I suppose to a conservative it might just feel that way. Head over to the Fox News comment section and they’re quite thrilled that those pesky blacks aren’t getting any special treatment now.
But should they be happy about this? I don’t think so and here’s why:
The Supreme Court only invalidated section 4, not section 5 and certainly not the entire law. Section 4, among other things, is the where the calculations used to determine what states and counties fall under the purview of Section 5. Section 5 is the part where the federal government can assert control over problematic parts of the country. Unsurprisingly, most of these places are located in the South and here the troubles for the right wing will begin.
By not striking down Section 5, the court affirmed that the federal government does have the right to regulate voting laws to prevent abuse. Justice Scalia, ever a reliable shill for the conservative movement’s basest impulses, would have liked to strike the entire law but it stands to reason at least one of the other conservative judges wasn’t going to go along with that so the compromise was to cripple the law instead. And so they did. But in doing so they might have handed the left an unparalleled weapon of mass electoral destruction.
After the sweeping GOP victory of 2010, the right went into spasms of joy with all of the state houses they completely took over. They immediately broke their promise to a gullible base to tackle “jobs jobs jobs” and set about enacting the wet dreams of every fundamentalist Christian and “small government” conservative. The GOP launched an unprecedented attack on voting rights, women’s rights, unions, immigrants — you name it. For their trouble, they got the stuffing beat out of them on Election Day 2012. In a year where every sign suggested that President Obama should have lost seats in both houses and possibly the White House itself, Obama handily defeated what’s-his-name and the Democrats actually picked up seats in both.
Yet, in the aftermath, the GOP simply cannot stop pursuing the course they are on. They have continued to insult and belittle every ethic group that voted heavily against them, savagely attack women and continue to try and restrict voting rights. With the defanging of the VRA, the GOP will have no choice but to mount a massive assault on voting rights. They can read the demographic tea leaves as well as anyone else. Now that white people have started dying off faster then they are being born while minorities now comprise more than 50 percent of all births in the country, the long term prospects for the GOP can be compared to a snowball’s chance in hell.
Liberals and Democrats are many things but stupid is not one of them. It was perfectly clear that the voter turnout in 2012 was much higher than normal simply because minority voters were offended by the idea that the GOP was trying to keep them from voting. What really caused this backlash was the insanely over-the-top way the GOP went about trying to disenfranchise them. They might as well have grown a handlebar mustache and twirled it like Snidely Whiplash; they were THAT obvious about it.
So based on the GOP’s recent history, they will take extreme measures to suppress the vote of all those pesky people that vote against them and it will be far more difficult for the Department of Justice to stop them. Here’s where the liberals and Democrats come in.
Liberals must make a huge deal about every newly enacted voter restriction scheme of the right. All of them. We must paint a vivid picture of the concerted effort Republicans will be making to block Blacks, Latinos, students and the elderly from voting.
Democrats have a different but equally vital role to play. Since Section 5 is intact, all they have to do is introduce a new formula to determine which municipalities will require regulation. They need to make it as clear as possible that it is fair and equitable and be as loud and vocal about it as possible. The GOP will absolutely reject any and all legislation to this effect without fail. They will never, in a million years, agree to a single formulation that will keep GOP dominated legislatures from disenfranchising as many people as possible. They can’t even pass immigration reform no matter how tilted to the right it is and that is unquestionably vital to their electoral future. It may not be that clear to the right yet how badly this will bite them in the ass as they go hog wild with their various voter suppression schemes.
Rick Perry is already gleefully celebrating the SCOTUS decision by enacting a new Voter ID law and redistricting scheme that will deliberately disenfranchise minorities. They will not be able to stop themselves and while it will hurt those living in GOP dominated states for the time being, the GOP will be slitting their own throat and smiling while they do it. We should oblige them and make sure the blade is as sharp as possible.