It is clear that the Supreme Court is bitterly divided over the Voting Rights Act, which is hanging in the balance after the oral arguments this week, with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan strongly challenging Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the act was a “racial entitlement”, which demonstrates that Scalia has no understanding of the history of the denial of voting rights, and the need to continue to monitor what those states that have discriminated are now doing.
The Republican Party abandoned African Americans on this day in 1877, when they agreed to the Compromise of 1877, making their candidate for President, Rutherford B. Hayes President, despite the clear cut lead of Democrat Samuel Tilden in popular votes. Part of the deal was for the GOP to stop being the party that had advanced civil rights through two laws during Reconstruction, the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the passage of three amendments to the Constitution.
The southern states went ahead and continued a policy of discrimination for the next ninety years on voting, and imposing Jim Crow segregation, and the GOP, the majority party until 1932, did nothing about it, due to the deal set up in the Compromise of 1877.
After ninety years, finally, voting rights, supposedly guaranteed under the 15th Amendment, but not enforced, were restored under the Voting Rights Act, but not before civil rights marchers were beaten up, such as Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, and others slaughtered in the name of promoting civil rights in the South.
But along comes Antonin Scalia, who conveniently forgets that even Jews, and also Italians such as himself, were lynched in the South in the near century in which African Americans were denied their basic rights, including voting.
And he wants the Court to become “activist”, when that is precisely what conservatives claim they hate about the Supreme Court. And so therefore, to hell with the overwhelming vote of the Congress to extend the Voting Rights act in 2006, and let’s wipe out all progress and return us to the states “deciding” if any group can vote, instead of “guaranteeing” the right to vote, the basic element of democracy!
So just as the Compromise of 1877 brought us a President who had NOT won the popular vote, and followed through on taking the GOP out of its civil rights activism, so now, two appointments of another President, George W. Bush, not elected by popular vote, and instead put in by a partisan Republican Court including Scalia, shall repeat history and deny Africans Americans the guarantee of the right to vote granted in the 15th Amendment in 1870!