On today's BradCast: A very lively conversation with one of our favorite guests...about a very dark moment in our nation's history. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]
Last week, on the final day of its term this year, the 6 Republican Justices on the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court majority, "turned back the clock on voting rights," according to UC Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen. A week after Justice Samuel Alito opinion for the majority in Brnovich v. DNC was published, Hasen is "angry" that "so much of the public does not realize what a hit American democracy has taken," as the ruling "reopens the door to a United States in which states can put up roadblocks to minority voting and engage in voter suppression with few legal consequences once a state has raised tenuous and unsupported concerns about the risk of voter fraud. It's exactly the opposite of what Congress intended."
We share Hasen's fury today. Not only about the activist Rightwing SCOTUS jurists legislating from the bench to wholly rewrite the intent of Congress, but also about them ignoring the couldn't-be-clearer, simple meaning of the plain text of the 15th Amendment. The entire thing is only two sentences long. The first declares "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The second states that "The CONGRESS shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." [Emphasis added for our six deceitful, dishonest SCOTUS Justices.]
Once again, the Supreme Court has chosen to simply ignore that second sentence in --- yet again --- gutting the Voting Rights Act, the appropriate legislation Congress wrote, and has amended to strengthen several times, in order to enforce the 15th Amendment, as literally directed by the Constitution. And, once again, the Roberts Court has put the lie to the bogus claim by the Right that the Republican appointees are "originalists" or "Constitutional textualists" who believe only in the literal, plain text meaning of Constitution as it was written. That is clearly, and always has been, a bald-faced lie.
We're joined today by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, at term's end, the outrage of the "mangled" Brnovich opinion, which now allows Arizona and other Republican controlled states to simply ignore the expressed intent of Congress' specific legislation barring voting laws that result in disproportionate disenfranchisement of minority voters and pretends that the Judiciary, not Congress, has the "power to enforce" the Constitution's 15th Amendment.
"You're dead right about the Fifteenth Amendment," Stern tells me. "And I do think it's worth noting that all of the Reconstruction amendments expressly empower Congress to enforce them. Because the framers of these amendments after the Civil War recognized that it was crucial not to just rely on the federal courts to protect rights, that Congress itself needed to play a leading role in the protection of Constitutional rights. And, particularly, the protection of political equality for people of all races."
"The conservative Justices [they're not "conservative", which we discuss as well!] have adopted this position not just of judicial supremacy but judicial arrogance, that the framers of the Reconstruction amendments couldn't possibly have intended to give Congress power to go beyond the Supreme Court's own interpretation of the Constitution.," Stern fumes. "This is a theme that we see from conservative justices over and over again --- where they say 'We're the ones who decide what counts as a right. We're the ones who decide what counts as legal and illegal, and Congress has nothing to say. Congress can only enforce our own rulings. What five of us say on this Supreme Court overrules what everyone says in Congress and the elected democratic branches. That has led to this twisted position where we don't see a lot of litigators actually speaking about the text of the 15th Amendment because the court has said, 'We sit at the top of the hierarchy, we get to decide, and all Congress can do is enforce our positions.'"
Stern also joins Hasen's (and my) anger in seeing SCOTUS blatantly ignore Congress's express intent for Section 2 of the VRA to prevent voting laws that result in the disenfranchisement of minorities. "What Justice Alito has done," Stern tells us, amounts to simply "making up" a new rule that is "totally fabricated" and "nowhere in the text" of either the law or the Constitution, in setting new "guideposts" for the use of the VRA's Section 2. "The law says very explicitly that any voting restrictions that results in disproportionate impact on racial minorities is illegal."
At the same time that the Court allowed Arizona's new voter suppression laws, Stern notes the irony of Chief Justice John Roberts, on the very same day in another "bitterly divided" 6 to 3 opinion (Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta), blocking the state of California's law that allowed its Attorney General to learn the name of "dark money" donors to non-profit groups in order to enforce state laws and limits. All of which, Stern observes, bodes very darkly for both what is to come in the next term of SCOTUS (major cases on guns, abortion and affirmative action are on the docket) and beyond --- not to mention any laws Democrats in Congress may pass (if they can ever reform the filibuster) to protect voting rights.
"In fact, I have been saying for a long time, unfortunately, that this Supreme Court will strike down large portions, if not all, of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act," Stern warns. "Next term is winding up to be one of the most catastrophic terms for progressives, for the left, in history --- in the entire history of the country."
With that bright news, we also discuss the disappointment of 82-year old, Democratic-appointed Justice Stephen Breyer failing to announce his retirement last week as many hoped, so he could be replaced by a Democratic White House and Senate, while both still exist. And, yes, there is much more in our conversation today regarding SCOTUS at the end of its first term with three far-right activist jurists packed onto it by Senate Republicans who happily blocked a Democratic appointee to the Court for year, before unilaterally killing the Senate filibuster to seat all three of Trump's appointees.
Also today, remember all of those major corporations who pretended to express outrage after the January 6th insurrection and the passage of voter suppression laws around the country, vowing to halt corporate donations to members of Congress who voted against the certification of Joe Biden's decisive victory over Trump? Yeah, as we warned you months ago, most of them didn't actually mean it. Now we have much more proof...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)