-By Steve Benen
February 27, 2013- In recent decades, support for the Voting Rights Act became nearly universal — that is, until very recently. As much of the right has become increasingly radicalized, the VRA has become a popular target, and Attorney General Eric Holder recently noted that there have been more conservative legal challenges to the Section 5 of the VRA over the past two years than during the previous four decades.
The timing of these challenges is not coincidental — GOP policymakers nationwide launched an ambitious "war on voting," deliberately creating longer voting lines, closing early-voting windows, addressing imaginary voter fraud through punitive voter-ID laws, restricting voter-registration drives, and overseeing an anti-voting campaign unlike anything seen in the United States since the days of Jim Crow. In many parts of the country, the Voting Rights Act has stood in the way of the larger conservative agenda.
This in turn set the stage for a historic Supreme Court showdown, which after this morning's oral arguments, appears to heavily favor Republicans.
A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court's more conservative members.
Justice Antonin Scalia called the provision, which requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures, a "perpetuation of racial entitlement." Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a skeptical question about whether people in the South are more racist than those in the North. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked how much longer Alabama must live "under the trusteeship of the United States government."
The court's more liberal members, citing data and history, said Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions.
Last summer, during some of Scalia's partisan antics, a constitutional law professor at UCLA said the conservative jurist "has finally jumped the shark." If that was true in June, I think it's fair to say "perpetuation of racial entitlement" is proof that Scalia has already taken the skis and the leather jacket off, but just doesn't care about credibility anymore.