The idea that progress is an inexorable force is naive. Civilization’s big steps forward are often followed by big steps back. The civil rights movement triggered a backlash that continues to this day. Progressive laws are still on the books, but reactionaries are counterattacking, none more fiercely than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who recently argued out loud that retention of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act amounts to “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
Think about it. One of our highest-ranking judges is saying that laws protecting black Americans from discrimination at the polls are no longer needed because discriminatory practices against black people have been eliminated from coast to coast. As if several state governments hadn’t made blatant, large-scale attempts to keep black people from voting in the 2012 elections — attempts that were blocked because of the Voting Rights Act.
Amazingly, Scalia was voicing the same argument being made by the lawyer for Shelby County, AL, which is challenging sections of the Voting Rights Act in a case currently being heard by Scalia and the rest of the Supremes.
Bill Blum got it right in Truthdig:
We can thank Scalia for his candor, not just because his comment telegraphed his expected vote on the matter, but because the remark demonstrated how closely he and the four other Republican appointees to the high court have aligned themselves with the right-wing and libertarian interest groups behind the Shelby litigation.
Scalia’s larger goal is to wipe out progressive laws enacted since the New Deal, by whatever means necessary. He and his bitter homies are pining for the plantation era, for the return of a confederacy of dunces led by Jim Crow. They love the Gilded Age, too. Everything old is new again.