That partisan hacks of the Supreme Court did their job: They have helped their party win future elections by gutting campaign finance reform in the Citizens United case, and now the Voting Rights Act in Shelby.
This is no surprise. Justice Kennedy does vote the right way from time to time (as he’s done on gay rights for a while now — it was Kennedy who authored US v. Windsor, the decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA last week) , but he votes the hard-right way when it comes to supporting his party. Kennedy voted against democracy and counting the votes in Bush vs. Gore, so it wasn’t particularly surprising that he would vote for the return of Jim Crow voter suppression in Shelby.
And the vote suppressors snapped into action immediately.
Texas announced it would be putting its Voter ID act into operation, two hours after the decision came down. This led John Oliver standing in for Jon Stewart on the Daily Show to observe, “It takes Texas less time to disenfranchise voters than to ‘barbecue a pig’. ”
The effects of Shelby on individuals are going to be severe. More people are going to be spending seven-plus hours waiting in line to vote, because they happen to be living in a Democratic majority precinct in a state run by corrupt Republicans. And there will be more Ken-Blackwell-type corruption where voter registrations are thrown away for being on the wrong weight paper. And there will be more cases of the voting machines being configured to silently reject misread ballots in some precincts and accept them in others.
The recent Voting Rights Act decision, Shelby, is likely to have rather less effect on election outcomes. Don’t get me wrong — Shelby may mean the difference between the Republican Party keeping the house and losing it. But Shelby alone isn’t going to put a Republican in the White House or turn the Senate red. And even in the short term, it might cost the Republicans more seats than it gains.
Republicans tried voter suppression tactics in 2012, but only succeeded in turning the act of voting into a demonstration of solidarity with the civil rights movement. One consequence of Shelby is going to be that every act of voter suppression will now be presented in the national media, and received by the public, through the lens of Jim Crow.
The longer term effects are rather easier to predict.
First and most important, every voter who gets the door slammed in their face by a corrupt Republican voter suppression law is a vote the GOP has lost for life. All the Democrats need do to claim those votes is to stand up for the disenfranchised voters. And they should be doing it now. Democrats control the Senate, they should be holding hearings on voter suppression, now.
The second effect is that the more desperate the Republican party gets for votes, the more the GOP is going to get even nastier and more racist. Shelby was like giving crack to a heroin addict. The GOP is already addicted to a strategy of pumping up the white vote with appeals to racism, homophobia and every other type of hate they can think of.
Contra Sean Trende, there is indeed a floor for Democratic support among white people: Women and gays, for starters, are unlikely to be lulled into voting Republican any time soon. Trende is the Republican version of Nate Silver, except that he’s wrong, a lot. According to Trende, the results of the 2012 election are due to 6 million ‘missing white voters,’ and all the Republican party needs to do to win is to get those missing voters to the polls.
Anyone paying attention knows where those ‘missing’ white voters are: Buried six feet under, or soon to be. Obama’s advantage among voters under 30 in 2008 became his advantage among voters under 39 in 2012. Bigotry is just a form of ignorance, and most people get less ignorant as they grow older, rather than more.
The Republican party does not have a lead in ‘white people’, it has a lead amongst elderly bigots who happen to be white.
The college Republicans have been trying to explain to their own party that young people vote Republican in spite of the nasty race baiting and bigoted politics, not because of it. And small thanks they have received in return. Shelby has cut the legs from under the reformers in the Republican party, giving the reactionaries the chance to double down on bigotry and voter suppression. As with marriage equality, universal healthcare and climate change, anyone who dares object will be shown the door. And as a result, the GOP will get even nastier and more factional.
In the short term, elections will continue to be close. And the Republican party will continue to find majorities in some states thorough racial messaging and voter suppression. But every election cycle fought on that basis means another lost cohort of potential Republican voters, and another exodus of party reformers fed up with having to explain away the bigotry that they’re constantly tarred with. The dam will eventually break, and there may be no reformers left by the time it does.