Why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may be going away.
Justice Anthony Kennedy is apparently spreading marmalade on his English muffins again:
During oral arguments in the Voting Rights Act case, a majority of justices appeared prepared to turn aside the solicitor general’s argument that the law’s requirement that jurisdictions with a track record of racial discrimination preclear any changes to their voting systems with Washington. Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed this feature of the Voting Rights Act—arguably the most important piece of civil-rights legislation in American history—as a distasteful “racial entitlement.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing justice, recognized the historical value of the act but nonetheless suggested that the method of identifying which jurisdictions are subject to the requirement had become, over the years, “improper.” “Well, the Marshall Plan was very good, too,” he said, “but times change.”
Bolding mine. This has always been the snag with keeping Section 5 of the VRA. Today, very few people would argue that in 1965 the federal government would not have been justified in insisting that individual states respect the US Constitution, particularly the 14th and 15th Amendments. However, it is almost fifty years later. The people who were segregationists then are mostly dead of old age. Their children and grandchildren get (rightfully) offended at the suggestion that they wish to suppress minority voters – because, you understand, integration WON. These days Section 5 gathers its primary support from its beneficiaries: entrenched minority Democratic politicians, and slightly less entrenched Republican ones*. I recognize the tactical advantages, but speaking as a good, classical Republican I’m happy to see that Anthony Kennedy is enjoying his marmalade.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: One other thing to note about the President and his poor Supreme Court track record: his major ‘victory’ at the moment – Obamacare – is also the primary reason why the law keeps getting even more and more unpopular. The President wanted it justified under the Commerce Clause: the Supreme Court closed that down once and for all. Instead, he got it as a tax, which inevitably led it to be put under the administrative aegis of the Internal Revenue Service… which is currently losing whatever nonpartisan credibility that it once had with the American people. Which means, happily enough, that partisan attacks on Obamacare are also public-minded defenses against the arrogant overreach of a heavily-politicized and out of control federal agency.
One more such “victory” as that, and Obama is finished.
*Seriously, if you really want to end gerrymandering, you need to eliminate Section 5. After 2010 the GOP and the CBC worked hand-in-glove to create majority-minority districts at the expense of other Democratic ones.