Remembering John Roberts’ function in facilitating the repression of white supremacists
Currently, over 250 bills in at least 43 countries are supposed to restrict voting rights.
Recent Georgian legislation has apparently taken center stage and has sparked immediate protest and pressure from groups seeking to protect and expand the disenfranchisement of millions of voters, especially black voters. In retrospect, Georgia-based companies such as Delate Airlines and Coca Cola spoke out against voter suppression legislation. Texas, it seems, is going to take the media spotlight next.
The prevailing wisdom is that this tsunami of voter suppression legislation was motivated by the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was somehow fraudulent and irregular, and that Donald Trump really won and stole the election.
The “big lie” and the fact that African Americans in Georgia in particular voted in large numbers for the election of Joe Biden and Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff to the Senate have sparked this racist backlash that sought the license to withdraw those voters who made democracy work in the face of the virulent white supremacy that has historically disarmed democracy in America.
Let us not forget, however, that while the big lie may have sparked this latest white supremacist legislation aimed at suppressing the black voice, these racist attacks, for the most part, not by these white-robed extremists and hooded extremists, but by enabling these extremists to wear black robes, wrapped in the illusory dignity of the United States Supreme Court.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in the Shelby County v Holder case, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, paved the way for this wave of contemporary efforts to restrict voting rights by gutting key provisions in the 1965 Suffrage Act that the Senate had itself ritually, if sometimes reluctantly, renewed several times. The largest hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination in elections took place in 2006 before the Senate finally renewed the law.
None of these laws in states like Georgia, Arizona, and Texas would be possible without Roberts and his gang of right-wing racists dressed.
The main provision made, Section 5, was that certain “covered” jurisdictions were required to be pre-approved by the US Attorney General before changes could be made that would affect the vote. Jurisdictions “covered” included those with a documented history of racial discrimination in voting. To be fair, the 2013 ruling, advocated by Justice Clarence Thomas, did not entirely remove Section 5, but stated that the Congressional decision as to which jurisdictions are “covered” by preliminary clarification had to be made using contemporary data, as the law had done, it has been renewed repeatedly based on 1975 data. For all intents and purposes, however, it was widely believed that this decision effectively wiped out the pre-judgment rules in the face of the inevitable controversy in establishing these determinations in Congress.
In fact, how often do we hear major Republican leaders insist that systemic racism is simply not a reality in America today, even if the George Floyd murder trial continues?
Former Attorney General William Barr was one of the voices who denied that systemic racism was a problem in America. Robert O’Brien, a national security advisor to Trump, as well as Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and economic advisor Larry Kudlow made similar statements after Floyd was murdered by a police office last summer. At the local level, Senator Susan Collins has insisted that systemic racism is not an issue in her home state of Maine.
Roberts’ view also drew on sociological analysis that racism in America just wasn’t serious enough to warrant a preliminary resolution, calling it an “extraordinary” measure created to “address an extraordinary problem.” He claimed that “the terms that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the jurisdictions covered.”
One has to wonder what the American reality Roberts analyzes.
In fact, he based his opinion in part on the fact that black voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by the 1965 law had exceeded whites’ voter turnout percentages. In addition, cities historically famous for racial violence and discrimination, Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Selma, Alabama, had black mayors when Roberts was making his decision.
Of course, black mayors and a high black voter turnout mean America is not racist!
Roberts’ simple and arguably malicious sociological analysis was mischievously and famously countered by the late judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote in her dissent:
“Throwing away preclearance when it worked and continuing to work to stop discriminatory change is like throwing your umbrella away in a rainstorm because you won’t get wet.”
Well the umbrella is gone and it seems like it’s raining pretty heavy these days.
And it was Roberts who threw the umbrella away and allowed these rainy lawmakers to unleash their racist storms.
Furthermore, we must be clear that the allegedly serious and brilliant Roberts has clearly exceeded his limits in this case and abused his power as chief judge to fulfill his personal and longstanding agenda of repeal of the proxy law that he has been has been persecuted since 1981, as Ian Millhiser recorded in a Vox article last September.
The fifteenth amendment, Millhiser said, makes it very clear that the province of Congress has sole responsibility for overseeing electoral regulations and states that neither the United States nor any state may or may not deny or curtail suffrage because of race or color an earlier condition of bondage “which gives Congress the” authority to enforce this article by appropriate law. “
But John Roberts somehow believed it was his job to usurp the authority of Congress and make that appeal. Because of the education and sociological research we don’t know about, he decided that racism just isn’t a problem in America anymore.
His knowledge of the law made him an experienced sociologist.
Let us be clear that those who continue to deny racism in both America’s history and present are engaging and fueling racism and insisting that the status quo of white supremacists is okay.
Well, it should be clear to any unbiased eye that the heavy rain is falling.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.