I have a new piece up at TAP dealing with the voting rights act case before the Supreme Court. Section 5 of the voting rights act forces constituencies with a history of discriminating against minority voters (mostly in the south) to “pre-clear” their election-law changes with the Department of Justice to make sure they don’t have the “purpose or effect” of discriminating against minority voters. But the Supreme Court looks likely to overturn it, despite the overwhelming evidence that such discrimination still exists, and that Section 5 and the DoJ are instrumental in securing the franchise for voters of color. In fact, during the arguments, the conservatives on the court were much more concerned with the “sovereign dignity of the South” than they were with protecting minority rights:

“Is it your position that today Southerners are more likely to discriminate than northerners?” Chief Justice Roberts asked the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Debo Adegbile, who was arguing in favor of the government’s position. Both Adegbile and Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal were repeatedly put in this position — whenever they cited the empirical evidence for ongoing discrimination, the conservative jurists on the court demanded to know whether they were casting aspersions on the South.

Likewise, when Katyal argued that arbitrary time limits on when discrimination will end shouldn’t be set, Roberts demanded, “So your answer is that Congress can impose this disparate treatment forever because of the history in the South?” But the attitude of the likely majority was summed up by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who compared the bailout provision to the labors Hercules had to perform in order to redeem himself. “It’s like Eurystheus keeps telling Hercules, ‘Oh, you did a good job, but now you’ve got another — got another thing to do,’” Kennedy said.

Shelby Steele mocked Obama for offering absolution to whites for America’s racist past, but it is conservatives, including those on the high court, who have come to claim the prize: They will be pleased with nothing less than an erosion of the civil-rights protections that made Obama’s rise to office possible. While Justice Kennedy acknowledged that “democracy was a shambles” when the Voting Rights Act was first passed, the general feeling of the court seemed to be that white folks have finally overcome the problem in 2009.

You can read the whole thing here.

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