The trouble with the U.S. Supreme Court, at least in recent years, is that it’s too arcane for its own good – or for this nation’s.
“Arcane” means “understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric.”
In other words – in plain words – it means “abracadabra” nonsense.
On Tuesday, the high court ruled, in Shelby County v. Holder, that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. That provision requires some states to get pre-approval from the federal government for any changes to their voting-rights laws, based on those states’ discriminatory policies in the past.
In a 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the court ruled Section 4 is no longer required because the times, more or less, have changed and the need to defend minority voting rights is no longer needed, the way it was in the racist South of the 1960s and before.
Typically, to no one’s surprise, the majority members of the court – all appointed by conservative presidents, it should be noted – did at least admit “voting discrimination still exists,” but the Civil Rights Act of 1965 does not respect states’ rights because it requires only some states to justify certain aspects of their voting-access laws.
In his written opinion, Roberts resorts to arcane arguments and invokes “states’ rights” to justify his and the court’s majority decision.
The basic argument of the majority court is that almost all of the discriminatory laws against free voting by one and all have disappeared, that times have improved form those old ugly Jim Crow racist days, that we all live in a more egalitarian society. Tell that to those Afro-Americans who had to wait in line for hours and hours to vote in the last election. Those conservative justices should toss off their magisterial robes and visit the “real world” more often. They are apparently oblivious to the infinite variety of tactics tried in the last presidential election to keep ethnic minorities from full access to their voting rights. Such attempts were disgustingly blatant, from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Florida – in other words, in states where Republican Romney was in the most electoral trouble.
The long and bloody struggle for voting rights for all Americans (the very basis of our democracy) has just been delivered a serious setback because of this lamentable court decision. It’s even more shameful than the court’s “Citizens United” decision of a couple of years ago, which declared sky’s the limit for anonymous corporate donors in elections.
In their tortured reasoning, the court members who made this decision probably did not mean to be discriminatory, but – let’s face it – the end result amounts to the same thing. More people because of ethnic background or because of poverty will have more obstacles placed in their way when it comes to voting. The throw-back reactionaries and historical revisionists have won again, thanks to this unfortunate court decision.
In other words, the long struggle for voting rights for all Americans will have to be waged all over again, like so many other great struggles we Americans thought had been waged and won.