Monday, July 01, 2013

Nasty Stuff to Come

The people who run the Wimbledon tennis tournament are thought of as stuffy old Brits who are determined to take all the fun out of playing. That reputation, I have to say, is a bit unfair, because they have made changes over the years, and aren't opposed to making more improvements.
Still, they can be tough on players who try to stretch the rules, even if it's just a little. Roger Federer, for instance, submitted his Nike ensemble to the tournament's apparel enforcers, and, "whites only" rule and all, received the needed approval. He won his first match, but the bigshots noticed something they didn't like. Federer (who has won the tournament five times) was wearing white shoes with ORANGE soles! This wouldn't do, Federer was told. Fair enough. Sadly, The Fed lost his next match, his earliest loss at this event since our youngest was a teenager. To his credit, he didn't try to blame the Shoe Police for his downfall.

The Supreme Court announced some big decisions last week. Explaining them all in depth would break the "just the short answer" standard which is the sometime hallmark of this blog, so I'll only talk about one of them and attempt to keep it short.  
In 1965, a full one hundred years after the end of the Civil War, it was pretty evident that some states clustered in the Deep South were still in no hurry to allow their African American citizens to do what most folks take for granted - vote for candidates of their choice. The federal government intervened to take the side of the disenfranchised by adopting, under the leadership of LBJ, the Voting Rights Act. This banned certain practices altogether and, just as importantly, gave authority to the federal government to throw out any voting eligibility changes that would make voting harder in certain states. These benighted places were also, to no one's surprise, located mainly in Dixie.
The law proved a huge success, helping to turn black voting from under 5% in some areas to comparable to white voting rates. But what made it succeed? Was it simply a change of heart among the sons and grandsons of Klansmen, or was the threat of federal review too onerous to try to change the system just to get a political advantage (presumably to the conservative whites who now make up the heart of the Republican Party)? The question was a bit like trying to decide why we like strawberry shakes. Is it the ice cream, the strawberries, or the loads of sugar in both?
In the interest of brevity, here's what happened. The law had been reviewed and renewed before, but the Supreme Court warned that evidence of institutional racism from the 1950s and 1960s would at some point become useless for keeping the federal "hammer" in the law today. This time around, Chief Justice Roberts and his four conservative colleagues decided that that day has arrived, and that Congress would have to hammer out any new criteria to justify the feds coming down on a state or locality, regardless of its history. Until it does so, the federal hammer on these states is simply gone, though the law continues in this reduced status. The Court is, in effect, saying "I think these heah good ole' boys have had enough a' them bureaucrats sniffin' 'round theah bidness. We'll just leave 'em alone to make they own rules for awhile, unless Congress comes up with sumpin'"
Back a couple of months before the last election, I brought up the question whether either side had done anything either so morally wrong or morally superior to justify voting a certain way. My reply to my own question then was - yes - that the attempts by the Republican Party to control elections by pretending to be crusading against "voter fraud" was not only wrong, but disingenuous. This was simply cover for trying to tilt the playing field by changing the rules. I noted then that I couldn't think of a single GOP candidate or official who was willing to admit this truth.
I believe it's all still true, and that the ruling will result in GOP-leaning legislatures everywhere finding new and clever tactics to shut the doors to the polls on certain voters while throwing them wide open to others. For the time being, "voter fraud" will be the phony bogeyman, then they will think of some other cover when that one grows old.
And I have proof. The day of the Court decision announcement last week, several southern states announced that new voter ID requirements previously voted in but not enacted pending federal approval, would now be considered IN FORCE. Oh, and Congress? Last week they couldn't get the farm bill passed, so they are not likely to agree on anything that might affect their own employment.


Post a Comment

<< Home