Why the Supreme Court decision on Voting Rights might be good for Minorities

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” ~ Isoroku Yamamoto

On June 25, the Supreme Court made a controversial decision striking down a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Section 4(b). The original act established extensive federal oversight of elections in states with a history of discriminatory voting practices. These states could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice.

In a 5 to 4 vote, the court struck down the part of the 1965 Act widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation in American history. The map designating states, and portions of states, discriminatory was deemed to be out of date. In their ruling, the majority cited that current black voting registration numbers was equal to that of whites in the affected states, therefore making the law unnecessary.

Civil rights vote

These states and jurisdictions are now open to change voter rules has they wish. While, the portion of the 1965 Act still intact continued to prohibit obviously discriminatory measures, it opened the door for changes such as voter identification and the abolishment of same day registration and Sunday voting. These practices are seen to affect blacks and other minorities more than whites. And since these groups vote primarily Democrat, the decision was seen as a boon for Republicans.

As you would imagine, the black community and Democrats as a whole, have been up in arms with liberal sectors of the media right with them. Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris Perry of MSNBC have been screaming from any mountaintop they can find. And the iconic Congressman John Lewis, one of the original civil rights demonstrators in the ’60s emotionally decreed:

“I was disappointed, because I think what the court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart. It is a major setback. We may not have people being beaten today. Maybe they’re not being denied the right to participate or to register to vote. They’re not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses. But in the 11 states of the Old Confederacy, and even in some of the states outside of the South, there’s been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period. And these men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost a hundred years to get where we are today. So will it take another hundred years to fix it, to change it?”

This decision is seen as roll back to the time of the Jim Crow Laws and doctrine of “separate but equal,” which was never really equal for blacks.

Since the decision we’ve seem states such as North Carolina and Virginia already taking full advantage by moving aggressively to enact voter ID laws amongst others measures. As one would assume, these states have Republican legislatures and Republican governors. Liberal politicians and  pundits are conjuring up images of … well you can just imagine. “These new voting laws will prove to be insurmountable barriers in the upcoming elections.” They’re calling for Congress to pass legislation reestablishing the previous safeguards. We all know that is just an exercise in futility.

I agree with the convention that these Republican controlled states have nothing but a partisan intent in mind. It’s obvious that they’ll do whatever they can to discourage a high Democratic turnout. That’s politics. And politics isn’t fair, it isn’t just … and it isn’t about the people. Politics is about politicians and their self-preservation.

But what actually will happen isn’t etched in stone though. There is always “unintended consequences” to virtually any action. This Supreme Court is no different. And for the effected groups, these consequences could be an opportunity.

The greatest opportunities seldom present themselves in plain view. It’s up to you to look behind the mask.

Why can’t the Democratic party and specifically its minority contingent look behind the mask. All they have to do is to look back to recent history for an example. Only six months ago we witnessed the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre. In its aftermath this looked the perfect time to rally gun control advocates and pass much-needed legislation. But under the guise of “unintended consequences,” that didn’t happen. In fact, the event may have been a set-back for gun control.

The NRA, facing what looked like a potential tsunami of support for new gun restrictions, put their formidable organization on alert. They rallied their membership with calls of the inevitable “slippery slope” of future restrictive legislation. And up to this point … have shut down any gun legislation, even non-gun control bills involving innocuous criminal background checks.

Why can’t Democrats and the black community do this? Use lessons learned from the conservatives, and turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. Why can’t they spin these newly spawned attempts at ballot control and create a momentous firestorm amongst their brethren. “The Republicans are here to take away our vote and send us back a hundred years.” Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. It’s politics. Truth doesn’t fit into the equation.

Not only should they push for higher turnout, they should take this opportunity to push for more actual grassroots involvement. Politics is not just about the national races. On the contrary, as Tip O’Neil famously said: “All politics are local.” And local politics are where the decisions are made that affect us most.

And there’s more to politics than voting. There’s activism. There’s determining who’s going run and what their platform is. And there are ballot measures and referendums. Plus, there’s putting pressure on those that are in office already to pursue your agenda. Politicians need to held accountable … accountable to you, the ones who pay their “rent.”

This Supreme Court ruling doesn’t prohibit anything or anyone from voting or voicing their opinion. It may make it a little harder, or make it involve a little more effort … but it doesn’t stop anything.

This is one of those opportunities that isn’t showing its face and screaming at you,“I’m here, take advantage of me.” On first glance it looks like just another hurdle, another “punch in the gut.” But really what it should be, is that spark, that rallying call that will “wake the sleeping giant.” Starting this weekend the NAACP will hold its annual meeting in Orland, Florida. It’ll be interesting to see their response to their the recent events.

Will they use it as a “wake-up call.” Or will they just hit the snooze bottom … go back to sleep, and hope Congress does something about it.


I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+


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