Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Voting Rights

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There's obviously lots of good stuff to read on this breath-takingly terrible Supreme Court decision. Ms Ginsburg said it best, and Mr. Justice Thomas, in his looking-glass logic, came a close second. The worst remarks were those of the NAACP folks who tried to stop this gawd-awful day--Charlie Pierce calls it Justice Roberts' Day of Jubilee--who were opining all night on MSNBC that this simply offers a terrific opportunity for the United States Congress to write a better law.

Wouldn't that be a nice world to live in. It's hard to square any short term optimism with the fact that some 41 states are hard at work fashioning various new road blocks to a wider path to the ballot box. It's hard to imagine this particular Congress, unable to make even the smallest edit in our pitiful, weak gun laws in the face of the massacre of 20 children in 5 minutes last December, taking up something as serious as some sort of national voting rights guarantees. We are, as many have noted already, embarked on a period of nullification. The right wing oligarchs who already run most things (see, e.g., the vanishing blue collar labor "market") understood, perhaps decades ago, that the basic legal architecture of the united "states" opened the door to all manner of governance on a state-by-state basis. The great civil rights legislative victories of the mid-'60s were driven by an incredible decade-long drive consisting of probably millions of otherwise silent and in the case of black people, disenfranchised American citizens. This people's army was led by several virtual geniuses, including Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin. Three years after the successful passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1968, Dr. King was assassinated, as was Robert Kennedy, who seemed at the time at least to be the most eloquent white establishment defender of the powerless. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War slowly ground away all evidence of optimism and idealism remaining in the general population, and ended the career of the President who fashioned a path to the Voting Rights Bill we had, until yesterday. We will likely not see such a configuration of positive forces again in our lifetimes.

And the Right did not rest. They theorized a legal strategy which would utilize the fact that in the United States, "states" are endowed with great power. Consider just the nature of the United States Senate, where two men representing, say, Wyoming, have exactly as much voting power as two folks representing New York or California, population variations notwithstanding. George Wallace did not succeed in his efforts to stand in the "school house" door, but it was a specific loss. Symbolically, he represented the structural power the states hold in our constitutional framework.

The appointments of George W. Bush, not to mention his more subtly conservative and subversive father to the Supreme Court will likely be one day viewed as the most lasting legacy of the Bush family, enduring even after the last brain-damaged, one legged veteran of his deluded wars of choice has passed on to a better, or at least quieter, place. Mr. Clinton gave us Ms Ginsburg, who now shines like Justice William Brennan, eloquent but mostly powerless. H.W. gave us Clarence Thomas. George gave us Roberts and Alito.

Meanwhile, in the newly enlightened South, the Zimmerman trial proceeds. Convicted he'll be a martyr for Hannity and the rest of these revolutionaries. Acquitted, he'll be the cherry on this poisionous sundae we've now been served from on high. The counter-revolution will not, for the most part, be televised. It's happening in dim legislative hallways, and ALEC symposiums which now crank out new legal strategies far faster than any ham-strung Federal Justice Department can react.

It's a shame the people who crafted the Voting Rights Law didn't simply create a Federal Elections Board to oversee all elections in this country. Getting to such a place now is going to be like climbing Everest.

1 comment:

  1. You should comment on the theft of women's rights here in Wisconsin and in Texas. Both legislators are moving to make abortion next to impossible; and I believe North Dakota already has. Regardless of how I feel personally about the practice - the right to free and unopposed access should be maintained.