Thursday, June 27, 2013


Josh Marhall looks at reactions to the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act decision from a couple of GOP congressmen -- James Sensenbrenner ("my colleagues and I will work in a bipartisan fashion to update Section 4 to ensure Section 5 can be properly implemented") and Eric Cantor ("I'm hopeful Congress will put politics aside ... and find a responsible path forward") -- and concludes that the VRA really might not be dead:
... I think we can infer a few things pretty clearly. The most important of which is that Cantor does not want the GOP to own this decision....

Let's walk through this.

Seven years ago the VRA passed the Senate with 98 votes. As we've seen from the immigration debate Senate Republicans are a good deal more open-minded shall we say on these issues and much more attuned to the party's need to get out of under the label of "party of white people." Remember, senators don't get to gerrymander their seats. I think there's a very decent chance Democrats could get a reasonably good bill out of the Senate.... is Mitch McConnell going to whip a filibuster on this issue? I doubt it....

So now we have "the Voting Rights Bill" passed out of the Senate and lands over at the House. Does Boehner invoke the Hastert Rule and refuse to bring it to a vote because a majority of his caucus doesn't support it? Quite possible. But again, toxic politics.

I strongly suspect that you'd have a lot of GOP elites ... really not liking that outcome....

... I’m not saying this or the next Congress will be able to resurrect section 4 of the VRA. On balance, I figure it doesn't happen. But if the attempt is made, every step along the way is going to be acutely painful for the GOP.
Would it be? Really? It seems to me that if you forced this onto the national agenda, you'd get pretty much what you've got with the politics of immigration, without the perceived incentive for the GOP of possibly winning over some minority voters: Republican members of the House and Senate with deep-red constituencies would have no problem saying "Hell no," while many Republicans in less-red states and districts would hem and haw and say, "Yes, I suppose we should pass a bill, but I have serious problems with this bill."

And that would be true no matter what was in the bill.

If the bill subjected the entire nation to strict scrutiny on election issues, Republicans would rail that liberal Democrats want to declare every city and town in America guilty of racism until proven innocent, and want to subject everyone to the massive, and inevitably expanding, decision-making bureaucracy of Evil Eric Holder.

If the bill restored the status quo ante, Republicans would solemnly proclaim that this was just the antiquated formula that the Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, threw out. And if you drew up new maps based on recent patterns of problems with minority registration and voting, Republicans would probably play the Black Panther/True the Vote/James O'Keefe/ACORN card and start saying the real problem is manipulation of our elections by black people.

Only they wouldn't say it quite that way. They wouldn't say "black," or at least not all that much. They'd say "Voter fraud." They'd say "Democratic voter fraud" (or, more likely, "Democrat voter fraud"). They'd bring out Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote ("a nice woman, a citizen, an American" --Peggy Noonan). And she'd talk about how she and her group just wanted to remove dead people from the voter rolls and prevent illegal voting -- who could object to that? And for that (cue Noonan whining) she was harassed by the Obama regime! She, a mere housewife and patriot! But now that that's come to light, if we're going to revisit voting rights, shouldn't strict scrutiny be focused primarily on urban Democratic states and districts? Oh, and voter ID -- should there be strict voter ID nationwide?

And low-info voters would think some of what they were hearing sure seemed to make sense. (Remember, huge majorities of Americans back voter ID laws, presumably because they have no idea how difficult it is for poor, elderly, and disabled people, especially those born decades ago, possibly at home with a midwife in an impoverished community, to obtain the documents necessary to vote.)

Believe me, Republicans can demagogue this endlessly, leaving much of the wet work to Republicans in the safest seats while the rest of them tut-tut and say they deeply regret the fact that Democrats keep making proposals that are unreasonable.

So, no, this would never be "acutely painful" for the GOP. It wouldn't be painful at all.


Unknown said...

Yup. All you have to do is see how many bills WEAKENING gun-control laws came out after Sandy Hook to see how this will go.

If there ever is a Section 4 again, it'll cover New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, and that's it.

Of course, it would have been nice if just once our Democratic leaders had a bill ready for this, so they could seize the conversation. But they never ever do that. So we'll get the bill described above, and the reasonable compromise will be to limit it to Chicago and Los Angeles.

Victor said...

Spot on!

They'll demagogue it, and twist and turn it, and blame the DemocRAT Party for lack of any progress.

At heart, this was one of most favorable decisions for them in decades - and with the last 40 years of SCOTUS decisions, THAT'S really saying something!!!

If they can't openly thank Roberts and the other 4 sociopaths on the SC, or posture and preen - and, for the purpose of keeping up appearances, they can't - why do anything besides talk a good game about change, after they've gotten what they've wanted for almost 50 years?

Steve M. said...

If there ever is a Section 4 again, it'll cover New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, and that's it.

Or just the urban parts of swing states (Philly and Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, OH; etc.). Parts of Florida and Virginia will definitely be in there. Michigan, too -- time to reclaim that for the white race in presidential elections.

BH said...

I think an effort to fix the VRA has to be mounted, all right, but unlike Marshall, I sure don't expect it to either embarrass the GOP on any broad scale - nor do I expect it to succeed. With a majority of the electorate apparently thinking that voter-ID is a fine idea, it's hard to see where the pressure would come from to move enough of Congress towards anything resembling a restoration of VRA.

Unknown said...

As much as I'd love to agree with Josh Marshall's optimism, you're spot on Steve. But one question: How much would the opposition/slow walking of a VRA remedy by the GOP would galvanize a Dem turnout for the 2014 mid-terms do you think?

Steve M. said...

It could make a difference. That's one counterargument. I'm not sure it would be enough to make a huge difference, but it might be a factor in turnout.