Civil rights leaders are up in arms over Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's skeptical questions about a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, a cornerstone of the civil rights movement that brought an end to Jim Crow-era racial discrimination at the polls in the South.
In oral arguments over the law on Wednesday, Scalia, a stalwart of the court's conservative wing, suggested that the Voting Rights Act was overwhelmingly reauthorized in 2006 by Congress because the nation's politicians were afraid to oppose a "racial entitlement."
Scalia said that each time the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized in the past 50 years, more and more senators supported it, even though the problem of racial discrimination at the polls has decreased over that time. "Now, I don't think that's attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this," he said. "I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It's been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes."
2. Investigation of voter suppression.
According to a recent poll, 94% of likely black voters support Obama and 0% support Romney. Even in past elections, when the GOP candidate has used less racially polarizing rhetoric, 88% to 90% of black voters tend to identify as Democratic. This means that the Republican Party can actually win elections by suppressing black turnout, and this has influenced the GOP policy platform. As one Ohio Republican Party chair put it: "I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine."
Although we didn't know it at the time, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division under George W. Bush actively sabotaged civil rights investigations having to do with black voter suppression. It is no coincidence that the Bush administration ignored this issue, since the Florida Secretary of State's "error" - which purged 5,000 valid, registered black voters from the 2000 voter rolls - gave Bush the presidency in the first place. Under Romney, and especially under a Romney Supreme Court, it's a safe bet that conservative states' efforts to reduce black voter turnout will become more bold and aggressive.
Politicians who support suppression of black voters aren't just advocating racist policies (though they're certainly doing that); they're also attacking the foundation of liberal democracy itself. Voters should choose politicians, not the other way around.