National media tend to assume conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's vote in the upcoming Voting Rights Act case - Shelby County v. Holder - is a foregone conclusion because of his decisions on other questions that involve race, such as school desegregation. But Scalia's approach to remedies for impermissible racial discrimination, the harm that the Voting Rights Act addresses, has respected prior rulings and Congressional action, a noteworthy position considering the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act has been repeatedly upheld.
To be clear: traditional swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy is more amenable to legislation and policies that take race into account than Justice Scalia. Unlike Scalia, Kennedy has explicitly disavowed Chief Justice John Roberts' radical request that the Court refuse to approve any government recognition of race, ever. Therefore, it is understandable that the media focuses on Kennedy when speculating over which conservative Justice might uphold the "preclearance" provision within the Voting Rights Act - Section 5 - that requires states with a history of racial discrimination submit election practice changes for federal review and approval.
For example, The New York Times reported the reasons that Kennedy, who has rejected the ahistorical "colorblind" approach to constitutional law even as he struck down specific school integration plans, might also reject the challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5:
The issue in Shelby County is whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, viewed as the nation's most effective civil rights law, remains necessary to prevent racially biased voting laws in nine states and parts of seven others with egregious histories of discrimination against minority voters.
In the Shelby County case, as a federal trial court and a federal appeals court found, there is no room for equivocation [as in recent school desegregation cases]. If Justice Kennedy votes to strike down Section 5, he will be calling a halt to an unfinished effort to end what the Supreme Court once called "an insidious and pervasive evil."
Congress gathered an enormous amount of evidence in 2006 about the persistence of voting discrimination in covered jurisdictions. It found that discrimination was still heavily concentrated in those places and so widespread that case-by-case litigation -- what Justice Kennedy has called "very expensive," "very long" and "very inefficient" -- is inadequate.
Without Section 5, from 1968 through 2004 more than 1,500 discriminatory voting changes would have gone into effect. And last year, Section 5 blocked attempts to discriminate against voters in many parts of the country.
Conservative media figures are giving the thumbs down to Fox News analyst Karl Rove's new effort to police the Republican Party against the influence of the Tea Party.
Over the weekend the New York Times reported on a new group, The Conservative Victory Project, backed by "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" and members of the Rove-affiliated group American Crossroads. Reportedly the group will recruit more mainstream Republican candidates while protecting incumbent Senate Republicans from challenges on the right. The Times described it as "the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party."
The response from conservative media figures has been almost uniformly negative, with many citing American Crossroads' poor performance in the 2012 election and President Obama's election after years of Rove's work in the Bush White House as evidence against him.
Newly signed Fox analyst Erick Erickson sarcastically noted: "The people who brought us No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, TARP, the GM bailout, Harriet Miers, etc., etc., etc. are really hacked off that people have been rejecting them." Erickson added, "I dare say any candidate who gets this group's support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement."
Daniel Horowitz, a front page contributor to Erickson's RedState.com described Rove's group as "snakes in the GOP grass," and described the group's name as "Orwellian" since "they will never tell you how they plan to achieve conservative victory without running conservative candidates."
In response to Rove's announcement, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin asked, "Who needs Obama and his Team Chicago to destroy the Tea Party when you've got Rove and his big government band of elites?" Addressing Rove, she wrote, "You and your Incumbency Protection Racket are the problem, not the Tea Party."
Ben Shapiro of Breitbart.com accused Rove of "quietly undermining conservatism" and described Rove and his allies as "the Bush insider team that helped lead to the rise of Barack Obama," and whose advice "led to the epic Romney defeat."
W. James Antle III pointed out in The Daily Caller that many candidates favored by the Republican establishment in 2012 -- likeTommy Thompson, George Allen, Rick Berg, Denny Rehberg, Linda Lingle, and Heather Wilson -- "all lost the general election" and that "if the Tea Party is to blame for anything, it is not distancing the party from Bush enough."
WorldNetDaily, linking to the New York Times story, described the effort in a headline as "Rove Doubles Down In War On Conservatives."
Rick Moran, writing at American Thinker, said "this kind of bloodletting is self-defeating."
With such a negative reaction from the right, will Rove use Fox to promote fundraising for this effort, as he has done so often in the past?
Fox News contributor Keith Ablow said today in a press release that he "would run" for Massachusetts' U.S. Senate seat if "all the leaders of the [Republican] Party united around me - to preclude a primary ... Such unity looks improbable at this time." Ablow's statement:
"We face an unprecedented assault on the Constitution and our individual liberties. If the Republican Party in Massachusetts and the Republican National Committee ask me to run at this time, and offer their support in that effort, I will run. If they support another candidate, I will work hard to elect that candidate. If that candidate should lose, I will, in all likelihood, again offer to be a candidate for Senate from Massachusetts in 2014, under the same conditions. The Party can't afford to spend precious resources on a divisive primary. If all the leaders of the Party united around me - to preclude a primary, I would run. Such unity looks improbable at this time."
Ablow is one of several Republicans, including most recently Geraldo Rivera, who have attempted to use their Fox News platform as a potential springboard into political office.
A teapot tempest erupted today after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) cited Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin by name today at Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation hearing. Post associate editor and senior correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran tweeted, "I hate it when senators refer to WP opinion blogger posts as articles. [Rubin] is NOT a WaPo reporter," which prompted Buzzfeed to proclaim that a "civil war" had broken out at the Post over "the newspaper's reputation for fairness and neutrality." This misses the point of what makes Rubin so problematic for the Post: it's not that she's conservative, or even that she's opinionated. She's dishonest, often flagrantly so, and that dishonesty tarnishes Washington Post's reputation.
Rubin, who essentially served as the Romney campaign's in-house blogger for the Washington Post during the 2012 presidential campaign, has recently led the charge against Hagel's nomination.
Here's a not-at-all exhaustive list of outright lies, misrepresentations, and self-contradictions Rubin has spun while speaking or writing on the Post's behalf:
Rubin invented the idea that State Department personnel in Washington, D.C., watched real-time video of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a claim later debunked by Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple.
In an interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly ignored key legal problems for photo voter ID laws under the Voting Rights Act and dismissed concerns of voter suppression, claiming in-person voter fraud was a problem.
On the January 29 edition of the O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly hosted Powell to discuss "racial politics," voter suppression, and voter fraud, but failed to provide important context, including any mention of a crucial Voting Rights Act case set to be argued before the Supreme Court on February 27. In part, this case will turn on the historic civil rights law's efficacy at preventing the type of race-based voter suppression Powell described.
The problem that recent photo voter ID laws purport to address - voter fraud committed in person - is "virtually non-existent." Nevertheless, in the past two years, state Republican legislators and right-wing allies have aggressively pushed such laws that add another identification requirement for voting, even though voter identification is already required across the country. Under the Voting Rights Act, federal courts have recently confirmed that new voter ID laws in jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression have a prohibited effect on African-American and Hispanic voters.
O'Reilly refused to acknowledge any of these facts in his interview with Powell, even as Powell tried to explain them to him:
As Republican lawmakers in Virginia moved to further tighten the state's voter ID requirements, the state's two largest newspapers abandoned the larger factual context of the debate by failing to report the scarcity of voter fraud and the state's history of voter disenfranchisement.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Norfolk's Virginian-Pilot reported that both a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee and the Senate Privileges and Election Committee approved separate bills that would further tighten Virginia's voter ID requirements. The newspapers each employed a he-said/she-said presentation of the debate and failed to inform readers of the fact that in-person voter fraud -- the kind of fraud ID laws are supposedly meant to mitigate -- is extremely rare.
From the Times-Dispatch, which characterized the arguments for and against the proposed photo identification election bill in shallow back-and-forth fashion:
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1256, has said it would help ensure integrity in elections and deter voter fraud, while critics said it would further disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters.
Democrats, voting groups and civil rights organizations accuse Republicans of attempting to suppress the vote.
Meanwhile, the Virginian-Pilot balanced a pro-voter ID anecdote from a House panel witness who found "that someone else had voted under her name in 2008" against "a variety of other speakers -- representing groups from the League of Women Voters to the NAACP," who opposed the ID requirement "as costly and unnecessary, saying it would disenfranchise minority, elderly and low-income Virginians."
The Times-Dispatch and the Virginian-Pilot ignored objective realities about the kind of "voter fraud" Sen. Obenshain claimed to be fighting. According to NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, in-person voter fraud is "more rare than getting struck by lightning." Investigations by The New York Times, News21 and Demos have all found little or no evidence of in-person voter fraud, and there are no credible claims that voter fraud swayed the outcomes of any major election in 2012.
The editorial board of the Times-Dispatch acknowledged the scarcity of voter fraud in an editorial on January 17, describing voter impersonation as "virtually nonexistent" and noting that "the evidence of need for [tightened voter-ID requirements] is almost as scant as the evidence of Bigfoot." Yet this fact remained absent from the newspaper's January 30 news coverage of the voter ID debate.
Furthermore, both newspapers missed an opportunity to inform readers about Virginia's history of race-based voter disenfranchisement -- a history that remains procedurally relevant thanks to the Voting Rights Act, which (via Section 5 of the Act) requires states like Virginia to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before they may finalize changes to their electoral system.
Virginia media followed in the footsteps of the Associated Press, which failed to note the importance of the VRA in a similar story about a Republican voter ID push in North Carolina earlier this month. While the Virginian-Pilot acknowledged the existence of the VRA in the lawmaking process, it failed to explain the state's history of voter disenfranchisement, which is why the VRA Section 5 applies to Virginia. The Times-Dispatch failed to mention the Act at all.
Described as the crown jewel of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act has been the target of right-wing misinformation for decades, and a parallel legal assault against its constitutionality will be argued before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder on February 27. The VRA, enacted to stem voter suppression on the basis of race in the South, contains a provision within it - Section 5 - which identifies the worst historical offenders and requires that election changes in those jurisdictions pass federal review. The current legal challenges to the VRA focus on Section 5, and are the continuation of the same discredited claims lodged against this anti-discrimination law since its inception.
From the January 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Mark Sanford officially announced on January 16 that he's running for congress in South Carolina. Sanford tried to rehabilitate his tarnished image by recently working as a Fox News contributor.
Fox News hired Sanford in October 2011 after a tumultuous finish to his second term as governor, marked by national news about his affair and a subsequent ethics rebuke. The conservative news network hired Sanford despite previously deriding him as a "serial liar," a "laughingstock," and an "early brain donor." Fox Nation recently headlined news about Sanford's run as "Disgraced Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford To Run For Congress" (and quickly pulled the article after Media Matters posted about it).
Sanford was a frequent guest during Fox's coverage of the South Carolina Republican primary, making numerous appearances in the run-up to the January 21 contest and on Fox's primetime South Carolina results coverage. He also appeared on Fox to discuss the South Carolina Boeing-NLRB case. Fox News turned to Sanford on a range of other topics such as the general election, Libya, and President Obama's jobs proposals. Sanford also wrote columns for FoxNews.com about the 2012 elections.
According to a TVEyes.com search, Sanford most recently appeared as a Fox News contributor on the November 3 edition of America's Election HQ to discuss the upcoming election.
Sanford's campaign website touts his Fox News employment, stating that since "leaving the governorship, Mark has served as a commentator for FOX News."
Several other Republicans have followed similar paths from Fox News employment to Republican office-seeker, including Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Angela McGlowan, and Pete Snyder. Fox News contributor Keith Ablow is considering a run for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts if Sen. John Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state and better known Republicans decline to run, and contributor Liz Cheney is reportedly considering a run for office in Wyoming.
Santorum said during his failed campaign that his prior Fox employment had "been big" and "helped folks remember who I am ... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day." A Columbia Free Times profile of Sanford reported that he was approached by numerous supporters at a tea party convention and one "rushed up to mention that she's seen Sanford on FOX News."
While former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford may have tried to rehabilitate his affair tarnished national image by working as a Fox News contributor, it appears he didn't win over his Fox Nation colleagues. The website highlighted a report of Sanford's upcoming announcement that he's running for congress by labeling him the "Disgraced Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford."
The original headline of the article Fox Nation linked to is "Report: Mark Sanford to Run for Congress."
Sanford had a tumultuous second term as governor that was marked by an affair and a subsequent ethics rebuke. During that time, Fox News personalities derided Sanford as a "serial liar," a "laughingstock," and an "early brain donor."
Still, Fox News hired Sanford as a contributor in October 2011 and The New York Times reported that Sanford was expected to "stay on with Fox even beyond the general election." Fox Nation highlighted the news of his hiring without any negativity: "Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford Hired By Fox News As Political Commentator Through 2012 Elections."
According to a TVEyes.com search, Sanford most recently appeared as a Fox News contributor on the November 3 edition of America's Election HQ to discuss the upcoming election. His candidacy likely means the end of his Fox News employment.
Shortly after the publication of this post, Fox Nation pulled its Sanford article. The original link now returns this error:
In reporting that North Carolina is likely to enact a voter ID law that was vetoed by the former governor, the Associated Press failed to acknowledge the relationship between Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and photo requirements that threaten the right to vote. Federal courts have found voter ID laws with photo requirements to be impermissible under Section 5, which bars states with a history of racial discrimination from changing election practices absent federal review.
Voter ID is a top priority for North Carolina Republicans, who gained control of both executive and legislative branches during the November state elections. Although the AP noted the opposition to this legislation, it reported it as a partisan counterargument:
[New Republican Governor] Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders pledged that if elected, they would undo vetoes from Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue that GOP legislators could not override because they lacked enough votes.
At the top of the list was the 2011 bill requiring voters to show photo identification to cast ballots in person.
North Carolina Republicans have said they wanted the photo ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections and discourage voter fraud. But Democrats and civil rights groups have accused Republicans of passing voter ID because many people who don't have photo identification - the poor and minorities - disproportionately vote Democratic. They say that fraud is extremely rare and that photo ID would erode voting rights expanded over the past 50 years.
The extreme rarity of in-person voter fraud is a fact, not just a Democratic rebuttal to the types of voter ID laws recently proposed by state Republicans across the country. Furthermore, federal judges who examined these laws under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in the run-up to the 2012 elections issued extensive findings that these laws can impermissibly disenfranchise voters of color. Nevertheless, the AP reported these points as partisan opinion, in the same fashion it commented that "Democrats and civil rights groups" maintain photo ID laws "erode voting rights expanded over the past 50 years."
Voting rights have been protected for the past 50 years because of the VRA, historic civil rights legislation that the AP did not mention. Section 5 of the VRA, which requires that changes to election practices - such as photo voter ID laws - by states with a history of racial discrimination first be reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice or a federal court, has been indispensable. Judges have noted this key role of Section 5 in fighting Jim Crow in opinions that halted impermissibly discriminatory voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas, a history referenced by former North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue when she vetoed the voter ID law North Carolina Republicans are now poised to pass.
The relationship between Section 5 of the VRA and North Carolina is especially relevant because the state is partly covered by the provision, and was the source of a right-wing challenge to the law in Nix v. Holder. The Supreme Court accepted a similar challenge from Alabama, Shelby County v. Holder, and oral arguments on the fate of Section 5 are scheduled for February 27.
A full understanding of why voter ID is legally problematic, especially in North Carolina, is impossible without discussion of Section 5. Putting the North Carolina version in context is especially important for the media now that those states challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 before the Supreme Court are also challenging the findings that their election practice changes illegally discriminated on the basis of race.
As the North Carolina voter ID law proceeds legislatively, the AP must discuss this clear overlap between those who continually push flawed voter ID laws and those who seek to do away with one of the most effective civil rights laws in American history. The stakes are high nationally, and certainly for North Carolina, as State Board of Election data show that nearly one in ten voters may be disenfranchised by the proposed photo voter ID law.
Conservative media launched vicious attacks against former Secretary of State Colin Powell in an effort to discredit his remarks and Republican credentials after Powell criticized Republicans for having a "dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party."
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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As President Obama gears up for a reinauguration that, right up to Election Day, conservatives truly believed would never happen, the right is trying to figure out what went wrong and what can be done to set things right. A schism has emerged between those who think Republicans and conservatives simply need to tweak their messaging (a majority of Republicans believe this) versus those who think the party needs to update its policies (a majority of all Americans agree on this point). Both these factions get find their voice in separate columns from prominent conservatives today.
Jim DeMint, fresh off his resignation from the Senate to take over the Heritage Foundation, plants his flag firmly in the "messaging" camp in a Washington Post op-ed. Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that Republicans in Congress should raid the Democratic policy chest like seafaring privateers: "Really: It's pirate time."
Both columns, though, demonstrate that the lessons of 2012 have been ill-learned, and the intractability of the problems facing conservatives.
Let's start with DeMint and his missive in support of message tweaks. Here's what DeMint saw in 2012:
Unfortunately, welfare reform and missile defense have something in common beyond Heritage's intellectual paternity. They both have been gutted by President Obama. Always faint-hearted about missile defense, the president in his first year dismantled our programs in Poland and the Czech Republic. He disabled welfare reform last year, when he took away the work requirements that were at the heart of that law's success.
How could the president get away with hobbling two successful programs with barely a peep from the media or backlash from the millions of Americans whose lives are made better and more secure by these initiatives? That's a question and a challenge I take very personally.
DeMint's solution is to do "research" to make sure going forward conservative messaging on topics like missile defense and welfare is more effective. Of course, anyone who paid even casual attention to the 2012 race knows that Mitt Romney's attacked Obama relentlessly-- and falsely -- for "gutting welfare reform," and those attacks were covered extensively by the political press. The problem with the attack (which originated with Heritage) was that it was over-the-top and wrong, and undermined by the fact that Republican governors were embracing the welfare policies Romney was attacking.