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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Roberts Court an Enabler in GOP's Self-Destruction

John Roberts and George W. Bush
In writing for the majority in favor of gutting the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Chief Justice John Roberts' argument boiled down to one point; that "the conditions that originally justified" singling out nine southern states and portions of seven more for increased oversight in election laws no longer existed, so that oversight was obviously unnecessary. This "the tire's not flat anymore, so we can tear off the tire patch" reasoning probably didn't fool too many people. Even the most racist and/or committed to the Republican War on Voting could likely see that it was a rationalization, not a solid logical point. As is so often the case, conservatives came to the conclusion they wanted to all along, then made up an explanation that backed up that pre-determined conclusion. The only other explanation would be that the conservative minority on the Supreme Court was made up of very stupid people who have no idea how logic works. But these are -- allegedly -- America's top legal scholars, so that explanation seems unlikely.

No, five of our supposedly "unbiased" high court judges -- the Chief Justice among them -- are blatantly dishonest and hopelessly biased by rightwing talking points. Roberts had previously demonstrated this trait in this very case, citing bogus census numbers. So the Chief Justice had the same command of the facts as your average Rush Limbaugh listener. Go ahead and let that depressing notion sink in. Fellow justice Antonin Scalia called the provision of the VRA a "racial entitlement," as if protecting people's right to vote was some special favor the government did for people who don't happen to be white. Again, this an opinion you could get from just about any frothing and stupid talk radio zombie.

Underneath the unconvincing lies is the real reason for the decision -- to aid in the Republican War on Voting. Racist voter ID bills and gerrymandering plans that would nullify the non-white vote can now be launched without federal oversight and Texas got right to work doing exactly that. Roberts ripped the patch off and, to absolutely no one's surprise at all, the air immediately began rushing out of the hole.


But Justices aren't politicians, so some ideologically-driven decisions are not the wisest politics. Yes, southern Republicans would love to see the Voting Right Act go away, but the issue of race is so toxic -- especially for bona fide racists -- that they would much rather have had SCOTUS just throw the whole thing out, rather than kick it back to congress. This has deepened divisions in an already deeply divided party.

Politico: ...Boehner was dead silent on the issue. Many Republicans privately said that nothing will get done this Congress to rewrite the law. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who chairs a committee that oversees election administration, said she respects the decision. The Voting Rights Act was not discussed at a closed meeting of House GOP leadership Tuesday evening. Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the Voting Rights Act “pretty technical” and pertinent to only “a limited number of states.”

But other top Republicans seemed eager to fix it. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has spent the 113th Congress trying to appeal to segments of the population that have rejected the Republican Party, said in a statement Tuesday he wants to find a “responsible path forward” for dealing with voting rights.

“My experience with John Lewis in Selma earlier this year was a profound experience that demonstrated the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all,” Cantor said in a statement. “I’m hopeful Congress will put politics aside, as we did on that trip, and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected.”
The Supreme Court's tolerance of voter suppression represents the more foolish approach to a very real Republican problem. In the last two election cycles, black voter turnout surpassed white voter turnout -- a difference that will only grow wider as time goes on and demographics take their toll. Gutting the Voting Rights Act and suppressing the minority vote with voter ID laws and gerrymandering can't work forever. It's not a solution. In fact, it actually aggravates the problem by further segregating the GOP from an electorate that grows more and more diverse by the day. You can't stand between a voter and the voting booth, then expect them to vote for you when they finally get around your blockade. In the end, success in the Republican War on Voting would be suicidal and the conservatives on the Supreme Court are enablers of self-destructive behavior.

Besides, these voter suppression techniques can't make a difference in national elections. If the GOP wants to see a Republican President in any of their lifetimes, they're going to have to find a method other than cheating to get Republicans elected. Most of areas freed from the VRA's oversight aren't in any danger of turning into blue states and the electoral college is winner take all. It doesn't matter if the Republican candidate wins by one vote or a million, the end tally is the same. In presidential politics, there is simply nothing Republican voter suppression can really do to elect a Republican candidate. And in the meantime, all they really manage to do is create ill will among voters they're going to need eventually. At the presidential level, all they're doing is needlessly alienating voters by stealing the elections that won't change a thing.

So John Roberts' big plan to save the Republican Party is as nonsensical as his rationalization for it. It's the Republican Party that's leaking voters and this only speeds up that predicament.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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