Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trump Shows Chief Justice Roberts Was Wrong. We Don't Live in a Post-Racial World.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in what may be an historic act of actual judicial activism, struck down important parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in his 2013 Shelby decision, claiming, essentially, that there's not enough racism to justify laws to protect against it. Trump's shithole world is proving him wrong.

Post-racial world, Chief Justice? Might want to rethink that.

We've seen time and again since the Shelby decision that one effect of it has been a never-ending string of attempts to limit minority voting through voter ID laws, limits on early voting, reduced voter access in minority precincts, etc. Republicans have even been caught bragging about it.

Now that Donald Trump has moved American racism out of the closet and back into the spotlight with his host of horribly blatant racist remarks crowned by his "shithole countries" outburst, John Roberts is looking something less than prescient with his Shelby ruling.
In 1965, the States could be divided into those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the Nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.
Not to impune Roberts motives in his stripping of core protections from the Voting Rights Act, but I doubt he'd go back and undo his decision if he could. It's long been a conservative goal to wrestle political control from liberals by undercutting their strength-through-diversity voting advantage gained from supporting minority causes. It was apparent at the time that the Shelby majority opinion was based not on the truth but rather on five white conservatives grabbing the brass ring of "fuck you, blacks" because they could, not because we really were finding ourselves in a post-racial world.

Jelani Cobb, whose New Yorker article provided the above Roberts' quote, described quite succinctly what was so wrong with Roberts', and the majority's, actions:
Tuesday’s ruling hinged upon the idea that the V.R.A. applies current legislative power to what is essentially a problem of the past. There’s a curious logic undergirding the decision, one that suggests a kind of judicial engineering if not activism. The Court’s argument that the election and reĆ«lection of an African-American President are evidence that the V.R.A. is no longer needed is roughly akin to arguing that declining crime rates mean we can comfortably strike down laws forbidding robbery. Minority voting turnout and registration rates “approach parity” in these places precisely because the V.R.A. serves as a deterrent to and recourse for voting discrimination. The violent subjugation of black voters in the South has all but vanished, but that overt kind of racism isn’t the best barometer of progress. Simple political interest—not raving negrophobic bigotry—has too often been enough to inspire efforts to diminish black turnout. [Boldface mine]
The now visible reality that racism is far from dead in this country and in fact has found it elevated by a real and unashamed racist managing to inhabit the Oval Office is an abrupt and shocking reminder of how far we in fact haven't come. Donald Trump will inevitably go down in history as the shithole president, but not before plenty of damage is done. That damage, unfortunately, was unleashed at least in part by the regrettable Roberts' opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, and the truth is now readily apparent.

We're not in a post-racial world, far from it.

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