You can all blame Ronald Reagan for this mess. He was the genius that gave Justice Antonin Scalia a lifetime appointment. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia referred to Congress’s renewal of the Voting Rights Act as the “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” during Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on the law—a comment that made audible gasps erupt in the courtroom.
The comment was made when during the discussion of Congress’ 2006 re-authorization of the law, which was done by a 99-0 vote in the Senate and 390-33 in the House. Scalia thinks the vote indicated that people were just too scared to vote against it.
“I don’t think there is anything to gain by any senator by voting against this Act,” he said. “This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress. They’re going to lose votes if they vote against the Voting Rights Act. Even the name is wonderful.”
But don’t think he got away with speaking his racist mind.
Justice Sotomayor asked the attorney challenging the Voting Right Act whether he thought voting rights are a racial entitlement as soon as he took the podium for rebuttal. “Do you think Section 5 was voted for because it was a racial entitlement?” She also asked “Do you think racial discrimination has ended?”
JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.
The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.
Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.
That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.
Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?
What do you think about Scalia’s comments?