Posted on | June 26, 2013 | No Comments
by Luke Goldstein
Earlier this week the Supreme Court of the United States officially declared racism no longer an issue, at least in terms of the rights of minorities to vote. They worded their decision very narrowly and skirted the issue in a seemingly clever way by not throwing out Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but instead tossing Section 4, which held the formula for determining which states needed to follow the requirements of Section 5 (so at this point there are no states at all on the list.) Part of the majority rationale was the country has changed a lot since the time when the Voting Right Act was created and there are less clear (and abhorrent) cases of racial discrimination in the realm of voting rights and access.
Think closely on that premise. Since there are fewer cases of something terrible happening, we should remove the laws that keep it from happening. Let take a glimpse at some other examples of this theory in practice (albeit simplified ones):
- New York city had an entire day without a reported murder, so we no longer need murder laws.
- The rate of domestic violence has decreased greatly in recent years, so laws protecting spouses against abuse are no longer necessary.
- Heroin overdoses in the inner cities declined last year, so obviously there is no longer a need to classify it as an illegal substance (scrap all the treatment facilities too, just to save more cash)
Justice Ginsberg in her amazing, retaliatory and fiery dissent on this decision also compared this to going outside with an umbrella, noticing you are not getting wet and determining the umbrella is no longer necessary. You can read her whole dissent here. The same idea could be used in the realm of vaccines by stating we have so few polio cases now, so let’s quit vaccinating our children against it. We’ve wiped it out! It’s ridiculous. In the case of voting rights and racism the theory is even more flawed because there is no medical, biological or even physical component to the illness. Racism is a completely different type of STD, a Socially Transmitted Disease. It passes down through teaching, witnessing and indoctrinating falsehoods onto impressionable people. It can come from family members, social groups or even religion pushed onto impressionable people looking for anywhere and anyone to direct their pain and anger on. The idea that this disease is wiped out sufficiently in our political world is outlandish by even the most conservative observation.
The possible silver lining here for those supporters of the basic right to vote for all citizens is the decision basically kicked the inner workings of Section 4 back to Congress, telling them to revisit the formula they used to create the list of covered states. This is very slim gratuity since we can all see the offensive ineffectiveness of the current Congress, but the chance is still there. Politically the Democrats are going to ride a wave of anger over this and try to re-establish the congressional formula used in Section 4, thereby making Section 5 once again effective. Yet in the meantime, not even 24-hours from the decision being handed down, Republicans in a number of states began pushing bills to once again limit voting access under the guise of ‘voter fraud protection’ (which is statistically insignificant in every study.) Once those voter ID laws get passed by the Republican-heavy state level congresses, it will become exceedingly hard to get the laws repealed and tossed out, especially if all they are bargaining for is one election cycle, one chance to use the redistricting, voter suppression and overall skewing of the democratic ideal to cement their margins in each state.
People on the right-wing of the political spectrum are cheering this decision, but I would warn against excessive celebration for a couple of reasons. First off, it might be short-lived and you will look foolish and defeated when this gets fixed (if it gets fixed.) Secondly, those people who are quickly becoming disenfranchised may not be able to get their own votes counted, but they know others, lots of others who can vote and this very quickly could become a pivotal issue in the upcoming elections, which the people in favor of suppression will find themselves on the wrong side of the tidal wave.
Both parties wait and hope for galvanizing moments. This could be one for the Democrats in disguise, if they can figure out how to capture it.