Monday, June 17, 2013

Supreme Rebuke

It's that time of the year again! It's June, so the US Supreme Court is handing down rulings. And today, the High Court issued a(nother) surprising rebuke of Arizona's xenophobic anti-immigrant statutes.

In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, an initiative that soon imposed harsh restrictions on voter registration. Since the passage of Prop 200, Arizona counties have rejected over 31,000 voter registration forms due to failure to provide additional "proof of citizenship" (far beyond what federal law already calls for). But today, the US Supreme Court said no more.

The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004. Arizona officials say their law is needed to stop non-Americans from voting in elections, while opponents see it as an attack on minorities, immigrants and the elderly.

But the high court agreed with the federal government in the case.

So what does this mean? Basically, Arizona violated Article I, Section 4, of the US Constitution by attempting to supersede federal election law. So now, Prop 200 is no more and Arizona (and any other states trying to prevent certain citizens from exercising their legal voting rights) can no longer erect additional barriers to the ballot box.

Prop 200 is one of many examples of Republican/"tea party" efforts to use xenophobia to gain political success. But now that they're experiencing more embarrassing electoral failure in the wake of backlash to this campaign of xenophobia, at least some top Republicans are now backtracking on this... And warning the rest of their party to follow suit.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday told conservatives who are trying to block the measure that they will doom the party and all but guarantee a Democrat will remain in the White House after 2016’s election. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., went a step further and predicted “there’ll never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party” if immigration overhaul fails to pass. [...]

“After eight years of President Obama’s economic policies, and, quite frankly, foreign policy, people are going to be looking around,” Graham said. “But if we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016. We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run.”

In 2012, Obama won re-election with the backing of 71 percent of Hispanic voters and 73 percent of Asian voters. A thwarted immigration overhaul could again send those voting blocs to Democrats’ side. That has led some Republican lawmakers to support immigration reform, but the party’s conservative base still opposes any legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living here illegally.

Democrats are well aware of the numbers. “I would tell my Republican colleagues, both in the House and the Senate, that the road to the White House comes through a road with a pathway to legalization,” Menendez said. “Without it, there’ll never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party.”

Ouch. That's harsh. But on the other hand, that's likely so true.

After all, this is why these top Republicans are now calling on their party to embrace comprehensive immigration reform. However, they still face epic resistance from the base of their own party. And as long as the 21st Century Know Nothings continue to resist reform, Republicans will continue to face electoral trouble ahead.

So not only is the US Supreme Court rebuking this toxic "TEA" of xenophobia, but so are a growing number of voters. So when will Republicans finally be ablebto quit it once and for all?

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