I cannot say that i was surprised. I think that all of the signs were there that the majority of the Supreme Court would move against the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That said, i kept hoping that the Court would leave the Voting Rights Act alone. It did not work out that way.
It is critical that we understand that the attack on the Voting Rights Act is a conservative assault on the ‘future.’ This larger attack is not so much an undertaking by those who have always hated the Voting Rights Act, though that is, of course, one component. Rather it is an offensive against the changing demographics of the USA and the implications that this raises regarding the potential for a progressive political realignment. The political Right is very aware that the demographics are against them, therefore, gerrymandering plus gutting the Voting Rights Act is an effective approach if one wants to undermine the emergence of a new electoral majority.
Various liberal and progressive commentators have been suggesting that we must demand that Congress takes action. While that sounds reasonable, in some respects, given the balance in Congress it is unlikely that anything will change. What is, perhaps, more interesting is to consider a different side to strategy, that which was raised years ago by the former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., and has subsequently been raised by the on-line group “Color of Change”: a Constitutional amendment on voting rights. In other words, there must be a political movement built around expanding democracy–including but not limited to voting rights–rather than simply patching up the current system. This is not to say that liberals and progressives in Congress should not act to reform the Voting Rights Act and deep-six the Supreme Court’s ruling. I am hoping that something will be moved immediately. But what we really need to look at is the larger question of democracy and, specifically, the manner in which it continues to be threatened by NSA surveillance, drones, and, yes, the attacks on voting rights. These various issues need to be linked rather than treated separately.
We must keep in mind that since the 1970s there has been a concerted effort in the USA and most other advanced capitalist states, to turn back the clock on civil liberties and democratic rights. The Supreme Court’s decision against the Voting Rights Act is only one act in a much longer and mean-spirited drama. The moves towards authoritarianism must be resisted now, not some time in the future.