What's left of the Voting Rights Act is in danger yet again, thanks to the Republicans' stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court majority. But this time, as we report on today's BradCast, the VRA has a new champion on the Court who seems to know how to speak in terms that even corrupt GOP Justices may have a difficult time ignoring. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
First up today, however, the continuing fallout from Monday's Daily Beast exclusive revealing that Georgia's Republican U.S. Senate nominee and accomplished liar, Hershel Walker, urged a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009 and paid for the procedure himself. That, despite Walker's staunchly "pro-life" claims and campaign opposition to any and all abortions without exception, even in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
The blockbuster story has rocked GOP hopes of flipping the Peach State Senate seat currently occupied by Democratic Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock from "blue" to "red" in November and, if true (Walker "flat out" denies the allegations) reveals the former football pro to be an extraordinary hypocrite. More staggering than that, however, is the hypocrisy currently on display by Republican leaders who are standing behind Walker despite the well-documented reporting, revealing that they never actually gave a damn about abortion in the first place. As MSNBC's Chris Hayes correctly observed on Twitter: "I just want to be clear that in the moral cosmology of Herschel Walker and Republicans the accusation is that he paid to have his child murdered."
No worries! According to new reporting, Republicans knew about the allegations long ago and just hoped they wouldn't come to light before November. But now that it has, as we detail today, longtime GOP leaders, pundits and media influencers --- who have long claimed to be "family values" "conservatives" who believe abortion is "murder" --- have come up with all sorts of ways to justify their continued support of Walker because they believe they need him to win back a Senate majority next month.
Next: As detailed on yesterday's program, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court's newest Justice, made a splash during the Court's first day of oral argument in the new term on Monday, in her response to a rightwing challenge to the EPA's authority to regulate water under the Clean Water Act. On Tuesday, KBJ was spectacular once again during a rightwing challenge to provisions barring racial discrimination in voting under the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
KBJ may have out-foxed fellow SCOTUS colleagues in her defense of the VRA, using an "originalist" defense for consideration of race in voting laws. We share the heart of her brilliant argument today, in detailing the Alabama case before the Court. Merrill v. Milligan challenges a unanimous appeals court ruling that the state's Republican legislature violated the Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA by creating just one Congressional District out of seven in the state, in which black voters would be able to select a candidate of their choosing following 2020 Census redistricting. That, despite the fact that more than a quarter of the state's population is black.
The Court of Appeals ordered AL to create a second majority-minority Congressional District in time for the 2022 elections. Instead, state Republicans challenged the ruling at SCOTUS, which, in February, put the lower court's ruling on hold until they could hear the case. (They also blocked a similar ruling in Louisiana, where state lawmakers were also ordered to create a second majority black Congressional District.)
In February, after the dubious SCOTUS ruling that would essentially steal a Congressional seat in AL (and in LA) for Republicans in the 2022 elections, we were joined to discuss it by DAN VICUÑA, longtime National Redistricting Manager at Common Cause. He joins us again today to discuss Tuesday's hearing at SCOTUS; KBJ's ingenious defense of "race conscious" Congressional map-making in response to AL's claim that redistricting should be "race neutral" despite mandates of the VRA and the Civil War's reconstructionist Constitutional Amendments that it is meant to enforce; and what the various potential rulings by the Court's corrupt, far-right super-majority may mean for the future of what is left of the VRA.
"What Alabama is seeking is a fairly radical change to the law and current Supreme Court jurisprudence," Vicuña explains. "It's essentially asking the court to allow a 'race-neutral' drawing of districts. And, as long as you are 'race neutral', it doesn't really matter if a community of color [is] allowed to elect their candidate of choice. They're basically saying the black community in Alabama could have no districts in which they elect their candidate of choice unless it was drawn in a so-called 'race neutral' way. It's a huge change, and I think Justice Jackson was rightfully pushing back in a forceful manner on what would be a significant change and blow to voting rights."
In her argument during Tuesday's hearing, Jackson went back to what the original framers of the Reconstruction-era 14th and 15th Amendments argued at the time of their adoption. And it appears to be the opposite of what AL is now arguing in court. In recent years, Republicans have claimed to support a so-called "originalist" legal theory when determining the Constitutionality of various laws. But now that KBJ has handed them such a theory for defending the VRA, it will be interesting to see if she helps to peel off enough rightwing Justices to stave off this latest attack on the nation's critical voter protection law.
Finally today, there was another procedural win handed down to the Dept. of Justice from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the criminal investigation of Donald Trump's theft of thousands of documents retrieved by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago in August...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)