Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Racist South In America

The recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Rehnquist-Roberts Court Fab Five was, according to an article by Andrew Koppleman at the New York Times,  "The Supreme Court’s Na├»ve Reasoning for Gutting the Voting Rights Act,"  a "blunder.":

"The Supreme Court has a long history of declaring that the problem of racism in the United States has been solved. It did that in a series of decisions just after the Civil War, striking down civil-rights and anti-lynching laws and paving the way for decades of racial segregation. And today it has just done it again.

"In Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unenforceable unless Congress rewrites it to account for the fact that racism isn’t as bad as it was in 1965, when the law was first enacted. The act requires all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get federal approval before they make any changes to their voting laws. Section 4, which the court declared unconstitutional, sets forth a formula for deciding which jurisdictions are covered: Briefly, those that had a restrictive test for voting and less than 50 percent voter turnout in the 1964 presidential election.

"According to Roberts, this formula has become stale. Voter turnout in covered jurisdictions is about the same for blacks and whites, many minority candidates hold office, and “literacy tests” and other tricks to keep African-Americans from voting have been banned for more than 40 years. The egregious discrimination that justified the coverage formula in 1965 has “no logical relation to the present day.” So the act is inoperative unless and until Congress enacts “another formula based on current conditions.”

"The fundamental premise that drives Roberts’s analysis is the claim that there is no reliable connection between a centuries-long history of slavery, Jim Crow, and voter suppression and any present voting discrimination. But the Deep South hasn’t changed that much. Outright vote suppression has been outlawed, but white officials continue to use nasty tricks to keep blacks from voting. Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, offers plenty of examples. Here’s one: In 2001, the all-white board of aldermen in Kilmichael, Mississippi, suddenly canceled the town’s election after an unexpected number of African-American candidates announced their intention to run. The Justice Department required an election. The town elected its first black mayor and three black aldermen.

Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. BuyEnlarge/Zuma

"The fact that things have gotten better hardly means that the act is no longer necessary. It may just mean that it is operating successfully. Ginsburg writes: “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

"When it struck down the lynch laws in the 1880s, the court lectured Congress on the need to rewrite its statutes to comport with previously unheard-of constitutional limitations. No rewriting occurred. There was no more Federal civil-rights legislation until 1957.

"The notion that Congress can step in to fix the Voting Rights Act by writing a new formula is equally bogus. The most notorious fact about modern American politics is that Congress is utterly paralyzed and can accomplish nearly nothing. The preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act is effectively dead.

"Roberts writes: 'There is no denying ... that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.' There is a sense in which this is trivially true, the way it’s true that you can never step into the same river twice. The real question is whether racism is still powerful enough in these places to justify federal intervention. Congress thinks it is. But Roberts is sure that he knows better.

"The other notorious fact is a wave of voter I.D. laws that are being enacted across the United States. These laws are being justified with the rationale that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. But that’s a transparent lie. The evidence of such fraud actually occurring is nil. The real reason for such laws is that they reduce the voting rates of blacks and Hispanics, and therefore advantage Republican candidates. Racially motivated voter suppression is still with us. The Supreme Court has just made it easier."

(Andrew Koppelman is the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law and a professor of political science at Northwestern University. His most recent book is The Tough Luck Constitution and the Assault on Health Care Reform.)

Roberts saying, "There is no denying ... that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions," is like saying oranges are no longer oranges.

But Nick Baumann at Mother Jones nailed the Fascist Five, and nailed them to the wall in his article, "This Study Said the South Is More Racist Than the North - But that didn't seem to matter on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

"Is it the government's submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?" John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, asked that in February during oral arguments over the fate of the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 civil rights law. Donald Verrilli, the government's chief lawyer, said no. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration was not willing to assert that citizens in Southern states were statistically more likely to hold racist beliefs. Without making such a claim, though, it was harder for the government to defend the VRA's requirement that some states—but not others—seek federal approval (which lawyers call preclearance) before changing their voting laws.

"The eight states that are required to seek preclearance are determined by a formula intended to pick out areas with a history of discrimination. (Places that go for 10 years without discriminating can escape the requirement.) On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down that formula as unconstitutional. Here's the idea that led to that decision: If all states are equally racist (or not racist), why not treat them equally?

"Certainly plenty of people outside of the South are racist, and plenty of people in the South are not. But here's the trouble: There's social-science evidence that, 150 years after the Civil War, Southern states do have bigger racism problems than states outside the South. And many of them are the same states that the VRA requires to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws.

"The key study on this subject is new. In May, Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer—law professors at the University of California-Davis and the University of Connecticut, respectively—released a paper arguing that the list of states required to obtain federal approval under the VRA 'remarkably' mirrors "the geography of anti-black prejudice" in the United States. 'What we have generated,' Elmendorf says, 'is an answer to the question that the chief justice asked during oral arguments and [Verrilli] was either unable or unwilling to answer.' The answer, they argue, is yes.
"Elmendorf and Spencer used data from the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, which asked nonblacks to rank their own racial group and blacks regarding intelligence, trustworthiness, and work ethic. Respondents ranked their racial group above blacks by an average of 15 points in each of these categories, perhaps proving the Avenue Qclaim that 'everyone's a little bit racist.' Elmendorf and Spencer, however, only counted a person as 'prejudiced' if he thought his racial group was more superior to blacks than the average person—and only if he thought so in two or more of the three categories. That is, a respondent could think his race was a lot better than blacks and still not count as racist under their methodology.

"The results were striking: The researchers' mathematical model suggests that of the seven states in the country with the highest percentage of people who are biased against black people, six are Southern states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina—required to seek federal approval for election law changes under the VRA. Arizona and Alaska, the other two states required to get the feds' permission before changing their election laws, ranked much lower in anti-black bias. But as Elmendorf and Spencer note, these states are presumably required to seek that permission because of other bias—anti-Latino in Arizona and anti-Native American in Alaska—which their study did not measure. (Besides the eight states mentioned above, the VRA requires some counties and municipalities in seven other states to seek federal permission to change election rules.)

"The researchers crunched the data several different ways to make sure they were getting valid results. But 'whichever approach you pick, the Deep South states are close to the top,' Elmendorf says.

"Elmendorf and Spencer's study came too late: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the VRA that governs which states are and are not required to seek the feds' permission to change their election rules. Now Congress will have to come up with new rules to determine which states this section of the VRA should cover. If lawmakers decide to embrace Roberts' implication that states with more racist attitudes should receive special scrutiny, Elmendorf and Spencer's study suggests they could end up with a list of VRA-covered states that looks a lot like today's.

(This story was updated to reflect the Supreme Court's ruling. Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for Mother Jones' DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS | TWITTER.)

"Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over
Conservative justices on the high court look set to scrap a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

"Chief Justice Roberts' Long War Against the Voting Rights Act
Roberts has been a critic of the Voting Rights Act for 30 years. Now he will help decide whether the law's most important section lives or dies.

"Justice Scalia and the Voting Rights Act

"The Republican Who Could Kill Affirmative Action and the Voting Rights Act
Edward Blum, a failed GOP congressional candidate, may end up dramatically reshaping US law.

"The Voting Wars Continue

But here's what's really happening, as we see from another New York Times article, "The Formula Behind the Voting Rights ActThe Supreme Court ruled that a formula used to define which areas fell under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. Section 5 required some places, mostly in the South, to obtain federal permission before changing voting laws.

(See the full article for the maps of the southern States.)

"The most ‘prejudiced’ states

"Law professors at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Connecticut have created an estimate of prejudice using survey data from 2008.

"The National Annenberg Election Survey asked people to rank the intelligence, trustworthiness and work effort of different groups of people, on a scale from 0 to 100. Christopher S. Elmendorf and Douglas M. Spencer estimated prejudice based on how people rate their own ethnic group, compared with how they rate blacks.

“'It may be argued that Virginia and perhaps South Carolina should not be covered, but the rest of the covered states in the Deep South top the list of the most prejudiced states by anti-black stereotyping,' the professors found.

"Lost or settled the most voting discrimination suits.

"Some voting discrimination suits, including those with a court-approved settlement, are resolved without a published opinion.

"Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority in the appeals court's decision, found that 'the difference between covered and non-covered jurisdictions becomes even more pronounced,' when including cases settled in favor of minority voters.

"Critics of this metric, as well as one that includes only published cases, argue that adjusting for population is unfair to small states and that patterns have changed since the data was assembled."

Even fifth graders know that the Civil War was not about racism and slavery, but rather about preserving the Union, but the recent effort by around 100,000 Texans to secede from the Union might prove to be a chance to remove the racists from our country - as long as we expand the second Sherman's March To The Sea this time around. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman's_March_to_the_Sea)

So it goes without further proof necessary that the SCOTUS Five have tried to pave the way for the next Presidential Election.  Coupled with the kind of voting fraud that Republicans have become past masters at (See Bradblog's piece, "GOP Candidate Sentenced for Felony Fraud After Changing Party Affiliation of 300 Democratic Voters, Casting Absentee Ballots in Their Name."), only a massive registration effort will defeat the racist Conservatives at their own game.


"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as
if everything is a miracle."

Albert Einstein


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