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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Agitation’ Needed to Fight the War on Voting Rights

From The Guardian’s “How to reverse a supreme court attack on democracy: fight for voting rights: John Roberts’ wrecking ball got you mad as hell? Don’t take his court’s electoral destruction for granted anymore” by Richard L. Hasen, author of The Voting Wars:

The worst thing about the [McCutcheon v. FEC] decision is that there’s not much you can do about it, other than fight to uphold what remains of the rules. The only ways to restore the pre-Roberts court campaign finance rules would be for Congress and the states to amend the Constitution (something that’s all but impossible in today’s partisan environment), or for the supreme court to change its interpretation of the First Amendment (something that would take the retirement of Justice Scalia or Kennedy and their replacement by a Democratic president, which is not impossible but not something to bank on).
A lot more can be done to roll back some of the Roberts court’s other unfortunate decisions involving our electoral process. Somehow, the political will just doesn’t seem to be there. Many white Americans are exercised about campaign finance but little else. But the American public – all of it – should be just as exercised by the assault on voting rights as it is by the court’s new views on money in politics.

Be that as it may, Hasen believes the Shelby County v Holder ruling offers more potential for corrective action:

But the Shelby case did leave open the possibility that Congress could adopt a new coverage formula tied to current conditions. And in the last few months, Sen Patrick Leahy, Rep John Conyers and Rep James Sensenbrenner – a Republican – introduced a new law, the Voting Rights Amendments Act (VRAA). It would impose a new preclearance regime tied to current voting rights violations by the state. States that recently have violated other provisions of the Voting Rights Act can get covered again under the proposed preclearance rules.
The VRAA is far from perfect – and there’s a chance the Roberts wrecking crew would take its ball to this new law, too – but the provision is a whole lot better than nothing. It’s an improvement on the status quo, where a number of (mostly Republican) states have made it harder to register and vote. Capitol Hill observers believe that the VRAA has an actual chance of making it through the Republican House, if majority leader Eric Cantor decides to support it.

Hasen decries the lack of “agitation” from progressives regarding the Shelby ruling, and adds:

…The voting rights issue seems to have fallen off the radar screen, even though the Roberts court’s reasoning in the Shelby County case is just as indefensible as its reasoning in Citizens United and McCutcheon in the campaign finance arena. But this is an area where something can and should be done, despite the Roberts court…If the supreme court won’t do its job and actually defend democracy, there should be agitation for Congress to do it.

Hasen is right to wonder where is the outrage regarding the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority’s shameless assault on voting rights and democracy itself. Ditto for his concluding challenge: “It’s about time for Congress to pass some new laws protecting voting rights, and it’s high time – right now – for us to dare the supreme court to strike even more of them down.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has arrived at a moral crossroads which will likely define his legacy in congress as either a profile in courage who stood up for the most sacred of American rights or as just another tea party stooge. By all indications, Dems have no choice other than an all out effort to replace the obstructionists in November.

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