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Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Monday, Mar 4, 2013

charlievignolaThe Supreme Court of the United States took up a challenge last week to the Voting Rights Act, which passed during the height of the Civil Rights movement to address the Southern states’ long, disgusting history of disenfranchising black voters. Predictably, the five conservative justices had problems with it, as they seem to have with any law that protects minorities or the underclass.

What was interesting was that based on the conservative justices’ comments, we learned several things that should be pretty big news: that the problem of racism in Southern states doesn’t really exist anymore; that the Voting Rights Act is an unfair “racial entitlement”; and that Congress can’t be trusted to pass laws that deal with race because they’re too fearful to vote against them.

At issue is Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, which says certain Southern states and other jurisdictions that have a history of racial discrimination must submit any changes to their voting laws to the federal government to ensure they are not designed to disenfranchise voters.

Back in the bad old days, Southern states were notorious for trying to suppress the black vote with illegal literacy tests, poll taxes and other ham-fisted gambits designed to keep people of color from the polls. As a long-overdue response, Congress finally got its act together in 1965 and passed the Voting Rights Act, now considered one of the most successful pieces of legislation in U.S. history.

Why is this law now being challenged when it’s been so effective for so long? Because Shelby, Ala., has decided that the law – specifically Section Five – is an undue burden on the Southern states, and that the law has outlived its usefulness since (snicker) there’s no bigotry in the South anymore.

Well, of course there’s no bigotry in the South anymore; if you listen to conservatives, bigotry in America is a wildly overblown threat, like global warming and gun violence. Hell, we just elected a black president to a second term in office, so if that’s not proof that we’ve officially overcome racism in America, what more do you want?

You see, racism has nothing to do with the scurrilous rumors that President Obama is really a Kenyan-born Muslim, which is believed by one-third of Republican voters. Racism has nothing to do with a 400-percent rise in death threats against the first black president; that’s just a coincidence. It’s also just a coincidence that the first black president lost every former Confederate state in the last two elections, and that Republicans still rely on Nixon’s racially charged “Southern strategy” to cobble together enough electoral votes to stay competitive on a national level.

Conservatives who want to get rid of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act say the law still contains a Section Two, which allows people to challenge any laws that smack of racial discrimination.

Granted, they’ll have to find lawyers to defend them and launch expensive lawsuits that could drag on for years, and the votes they were initially deprived of can’t be restored – but hey, there’s still a mechanism in place to deal with the most egregious violators, and that should be good enough.

In other words, conservatives want to shift the burden away from those historically bigoted Southern states and onto the backs of the disenfranchised voters to prove actual discrimination at their own time and expense. Once again, whether they’re making it tougher for unions to organize, or to sue doctors for malpractice, or to file class-action lawsuits against greedy corporations, Republicans are always on the side that’s against the little guy.

It’s worth noting that Congress just passed a 25-year extension to the Voting Rights Act in 2006 with unanimous support. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for Justice Scalia. Based on his comments, Scalia believes Congress only passed the law out of habit because too many congressmen are cowards, afraid of the political consequences of voting against a law designed to fight racism, so they need Sheriff Scalia and the Supreme Court to set things right.

Scalia can magically read the minds of politicians, and the only way to address this travesty is for the justices to step in and overturn congressional legislation – which is the very definition of judicial activism.

This isn’t surprising, coming from the same conservative-majority Supreme Court so devoutly concerned about states’ rights that it felt perfectly comfortable interceding in Florida’s affairs during 2000’s “Bush v. Gore” and overruling Florida’s Supreme Court to install a president against the majority will of the voters.

Then again, this general behavior isn’t so surprising, coming from the same party that attempted to pass a slew of new voter-suppression laws in anticipation of the 2012 election, hoping they could depress turnout among Democratic-leaning voters and thus swing the presidential election in the Republicans’ favor.

Their coordinated national attempt failed miserably, so now the right is rolling out Phase 2, which has already included an abortive attempt to reapportion electoral votes within individual states in an effort to move the goal posts and give conservatives an unfair advantage.

Based on the five conservative justices’ deeply skeptical questions last week, it appears Section Five of the Voting Rights Act may indeed be on the chopping block, and Southern states will once again be free to resume newer, more cleverly constructed attempts to discriminate against voters of color.

The right might win this battle, but if history is an indicator, they will lose the war – and with it, any chance to woo back the minorities they need if they ever hope to win a national election again.

 

Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    The Constitution is very clear: the States, and the States *alone* have the authority to choose their Electors and representatives in Congress. For the Feds to step in you need a truly compelling state interest, and as SCOTUS has demonstrated, that time has passed. The section will be stricken, and correctly so. It doesn’t mean that there’s zero racism, but the provable levels of disenfranchisement as a result of state law is now much too small to justify the Feds overstepping their clearly stated Constitutional constraints.

  2. B K says:

    Not sure why I wasted my time reading such a pile of crap!!! If you stuck with the argument against the fact that racism doesn’t exist you hold creedence and merit. Sadly, this is a problem that goes in all directions. I do recall images of Black Panthers holding bats in front of polling locations in Philadelphia. However, you lose creedence when you move the argument, attacking a political party for its mere existance.

    To accuse the Republican Party of interferring in the Florida vote by stating the court went against “the majority of voters” is so laughable. You sir need to read up on the Electoral College. If you wish to bring-up a debate on its merits, by all means do so. (It goes both ways)
    You also return to the argument that voters voted against President Obama merely because he is black. I wouldn’t deny that some are the case (again, sadly that goes both directions). However, many choose not to vote for President Obama based on his ultra-liberal stance. But alas that seems to always be ignored. I find those comments racist in themselves, presumptive racism. Bullying by cowardly accusing those that choose not to vote for him as boiled down to one thing – skin color!
    You and Mr. Zaring are so phony in your comments “former Republican”! Not one statement aligns with conservatism – easily seen through.

  3. Ajay Jain says:

    “The BIBLE”, the mini-series on HISTORY channel starting 3/3/13 Sundays at 7pm CT coming from Mark Burnett has got to be really good. It is on HISTORY Channel starting on 3/3/13 on Sundays 7 pm CT Channel 55 on TWC Time Warner Cable. Check out the latest Bible trailer by going here: http://histv.co/XZmj4s What are you most looking forward to watching in the series premiere on 3.3.13 at 8/7c? On HISTORY channel 55 on Time Warner Cable (TWC).

  4. Barnabus Collins says:

    Silly liberal – voting itself isn’t a Constitutional right. Wherever you received your degree from … I urge you to consider demanding your money back. http://www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html#vote

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