If the Scalia wing strikes down the Voting Rights Act, it thinks we’re beyond our history of racial bias
By Paul Campos
Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013
This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which require certain states with a history of disenfranchising African-American voters to have any changes in their law regulating voting to be approved by the Department of Justice first.
Most observers expect the court to declare those provisions unconstitutional, even though they were extended by the Senate by a unanimous vote less than seven years ago, while facing only token opposition in the House. All in all, 488 of 521 members of Congress voted to renew the pre-clearance provisions.
The enthusiasm with which the court’s righter wing appears to be greeting constitutional attacks on provisions adopted and renewed by overwhelming legislative majorities could make a cynic suspect that “conservative” criticisms of judicial review can often be reduced to the axiom, “the democratic process should be respected, unless it produces a result we really don’t like.” (Reportedly, during this morning’s oral argument, the increasingly egregious Justice Scalia likened congressional renewal of the Voting Rights Act to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”)
The policy arguments for getting rid of pre-clearance boil down to the claim that the sort of disenfranchisement motivated by racial bias that pre-clearance was designed to combat has largely if not completely disappeared. This may or may not be true, but it’s hard to see why unelected judges should decide whether or not it is rather than elected legislators.
But there’s a deeper problem with claims that America has “moved past” our history of racial discrimination to the point where a vigorously enforced Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary.
The Voting Rights Act, and its equally important cousin the Civil Rights Act, were both adopted in the mid-1960s, when, incredible as it may seem to today’s youth, Jim Crow still flourished throughout the American South. (My mother, who grew up in Mexico, attended the University of Texas in the 1950s, and was deeply shocked to encounter “colored” and “whites only” public facilities.)
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/02/27/supreme_court_racism_deniers/
Talking Points Memo: Scalia: Voting Rights Act Is ‘Perpetuation Of Racial Entitlement’