Barbra Streisand, singing at a fundraiser in support of Al Gore’s presidential campaign, during summer of 2000, warned us all: “The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court. Our whole way of life is at stake. I shudder at how a more conservative court can put at risk all we hold dear.”
Well, after Bush The Younger managed to get elected President by 5 members of the US Supreme court later that year, he went on to install 2 of the most conservative judges in the Court’s history.
A decade earlier, in 1991, his Dad, ‘Ol HW, had previously installed Justice Clarence “Despicable Me” Thomas in place of the thoughtful and reasoned Justice Thurgood Marshall.
One true African-American success story, rising up through the historically black university campuses of Lincoln University and then Howard University School of Law, who went on to work with and lead the NAACP, and who’s most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in 1954, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that “Separate But Equal” public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, could never be truly equal, and thus enabling the de-segregation of the South, was followed by an unrepentantly angry African American man who benefitted from affirmative action policies (put in place to correct prior, long-standing racist admission barriers) by attending Yale Law School and then forever scorned his own degree, famously claiming it was “worth about 15 cents,” and who has made it his life’s mission to interpret the Constitution as a mean-spirited “originalist,” (clearly missing the irony that his vote, as a black son of the South, should actually be counted as just three-fifths of a vote), and who has consistently voted for rolling back the civil rights and equal rights gains that African Americans marched, fought and died for since arriving on this continent in chains.
‘Ol HW’s idiot son would also have his chance to make a big mark on the future of the country. It wasn’t enough to cut taxes in favor of the rich, just when the country looked ready and able to pay off a serious chunk of the national debt, or start two wars on the nation’s credit card, or selling the hysteria of WMD’s, or extraordinary rendition and black sites, Guantanamo, the deregulation of energy industry, and the financial crisis, the alienation of our long-time allies, or the criminality of Cheney and Libby, Condi and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, Paulson, Rove and Gonzales, none of that compares to the decades of damage that will be done by his 2 Supreme Court picks.
Chief Justice John “50 Shades of White” Roberts and Justice Samuel “How Did I Get Here?” Alito, (recall he was W’s runner-up choice after the dead-on-arrival nomination of Harriet “The Cleaning Lady” Miers).
To understand today’s ruling, you have to go back a few decades to Ronald Reagan’s America.
Back then, John Roberts was a foot soldier in the Reagan Administration’s Crusade Against The Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act was a signature piece of legislation masterfully put through the Congress by President Lyndon B. Johnson, codifying into law the prohibition of States from implementing discriminatory practices to limit, block, disqualify or otherwise disenfranchise voters based on color or race. This was already the law of the land under the 15th Amendment, but racist Southern States had found ways around the spirit of the Constitution by permitting all manner of intimidation against blacks designed to limit their access to the ballot, sometimes promoting outright violence, enacting Jim Crow laws, creating poll taxes and literacy tests requirements, among many other tactics.
During the early 1980’s, Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy was in full swing, and holding on to the majority white Southern voters was an electoral priority for Republicans. The South had been flipped two decades prior when The Dixiecrats, angry at the National Democratic Party leadership’s embrace of the civil rights movement that gave us the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act 1965, began voting Republican in protest.
Nixon seized on this anger, and the Republican Party began heavily courting Southern Whites. A match made in bigot heaven — the love affair remains strong to this day.
And if you have ever marveled at Boehner’s House of Representatives having voted 37 meaningless times to repeal Obamacare, then you will appreciate the dogged determination of Young Reaganites working overtime to get results for their racist Southern constituency.
And it was a young John Roberts who wrote and advocated for the repeal (or at least the curtailment) of the Voting Rights Act. If at first you don’t succeed, get appointed to the Supreme Court. Today, he fulfilled a lifelong mission to deliver for the South, and for his old boss (the actor-President with the good hair), and effectively curtailed the shit out of the Voting Rights Act.
Today, the majority pulled the chair out from under the key provision of the Act that is known as “preclearance” — which requires that certain states and various counties with long histories of discrimination and disenfranchisement of blacks and other minorities, mostly in the old South, would have to notify the Department of Justice when they wanted to change any part of their voting procedures.
Because of their awful histories, they were on “permanent probation.”
The law is designed as a “preemptive” measure to address the practice of changing the voting procedures at the last minute, thereby limiting the time required to make a challenge — any challenges to the new voting procedures would not likely be heard prior to the election. Effectively, the damage is done on Election Day, and the injured party or group, almost always a minority, is out of luck until the next election.
The majority opinion decided the formulae used to determine which states and counties would be subject to preclearance restrictions was “outdated” and not applicable to the realities of the modern era. So they sent it back to the Congressional drawing board.
**(Not to go off-topic, but this is literally the exact legal logic the chief justice argued passionately against to justify his vote in favor of Obamacare.)**
Back in the 1980’s, John Roberts was fiddling with the argument of intentionality – he argued that if the disenfranchisement of voters was not intentional, then it was not covered by the Act. Basically, he wanted to turn the burden of proof onto DOJ Lawyers, putting them in the position of having to prove the malicious intent of the voting practice — in effect forcing the DOJ Lawyers to ask federal judges to label county and state officials as racists.
A devilishly smart idea designed to paralyze the Act’s legal application and thus weaken the law enough to be drowned in a bathtub.
He also made a feeble Constitutional argument that all States should be treated equally, but the idea never got much traction. In the end, the supporters of the Act outmaneuvered him in the Congress and his efforts ultimately went nowhere. Although Roberts maintains he was just a government lawyer arguing the position of his boss all those years ago, there are many who believe he should have recused himself.
Just in 2006, among the very few things that W got right in the 8 years he spent fucking up our country, was his oversight of the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, with a unanimous vote in the Senate, a massive majority in the House, and an extension of 25 years — basically declaring this was important enough to be guaranteed for a generation, as opposed to formerly having to be reauthorized every 5 years.
The haters lost, and the Voting Rights Act was a fact!
Just seven short years later, the Bush-family lackeys ran it off the curb. They didn’t exactly kill it, like everyone is freaking out about, but it was a drive by shooting, no doubt. They shot it in the gut, and then called on the Congressional ambulance to come and save it.
Any reasonable person would agree that the most egregious violations captured in the old black & white, 8-millimeter images during the 50’s and 60’s are not happening today. But, as Myrlie Evers (the widow of Medgar Evers) put it last week, “Jim crow is alive, and it’s dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit, instead of a white robe.”
The methods might have changed, but the intent is still there.
In each election since 2000, there have been multiple attempts by Republican Governors to limit voting times and locations in certain minority-majority counties, as well as pushing for voter ID laws which clearly impact the elderly and the immobile, inner-city youths, out-of state university students, hourly workers that would be required to take time off to get new IDs, etc.
All typical Democratic-leaning voters.
These Republican “usual suspects” are the Willie Hortons of the electorate, the exact ones who the Voting Rights Act was designed to restrain. In a recent speech, Justice Antonin “Archie Bunker is My Hero” Scalia labeled the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement.”
So much for impartiality, this is the modern language of the right.
Most liberals and assorted reasonable people think Justice Scalia is a big, fat asshole, and that he cannot die soon enough. But when you are the longest serving current member of the Supreme Court, well then, you can telegraph exactly how you are going to vote months in advance of even hearing oral arguments – decorum is for pussies.
But despite all of the hoopla and media attention going on about this decision, this is a purely political matter, and a bit abstract. I don’t think enough people know or care deeply about this particular issue right now.
And for that reason, I feel a fix to the problem can be found; this patient can be quietly revived.
I cannot see the political upside to opposing a reasonable fix. Of course the crazies on the right never cease to surprise me with their bigotry, but bashing on 11 million undocumented immigrants is one thing, refighting the crowning jewel of the civil rights era is another.
Recall how quickly the ever-looney Senator Rand Paul backpedaled on his crazy suggestion he would have preferred an exemption for private businesses in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, he said private businesses should have been allowed to discriminate against blacks if they wanted to, and he would not have supported that part of the Act, on account of federal overreach.
It took him exactly eight hours to go back on national TV to say without equivocation he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act in its final form, period — and then he literally did not utter a single word or syllable about it for a really long time.
We’ve come a long way since the bad old days. How long did it take the Food Network to fire Paula Deen for admitting she used The N-Word?
Where’s the upside to fighting civil and voting rights on the federal stage? The lights are too bright. Call me crazy, but I don’t see The House Crazies making a stand against a reasoned bill originating in the Senate.