The Obama coalition of Black voters didn’t come out for Hillary Clinton in 2016 as they did for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Black voters were chastised with the phrase, “elections have consequences.”
Indeed, they do, however, the most consequential election of my lifetime wasn’t the election of 2016. Rather, it was the election of 2000.
As the country focused on the Mississippi abortion case heard by the Supreme Court, a chorus of blame could be heard towards Black voters’ failure to vote for Clinton, resulting in the successful nominations of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who’ve exhibited an openness to overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
However, Black people weren’t at fault for the election of Donald Trump. That fault lay at the feet of white people, but I digress. Certainly, there’s mixed opinion as to whether Russian interference in 2016 stole the election for Trump, but there is no debate, at least in my mind, that in 2000 the presidential election was stolen for George W. Bush.
Stolen elections have consequences.
As a result of that stolen election, George Bush successfully nominated John G. Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court. That nomination has come with disastrous consequences that precipitated the lead-up to the Supreme Court hearing Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health Organization. Those consequences have come in the decisions from two cases: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 and Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, both during the Obama presidency.
No coincidence there because of course, a Black president only signaled post-racism, not white victim-ness…
The plaintiffs in Citizens United challenged campaign finance reform. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, that corporations and other outside groups can spend unlimited funds on elections. It is documented that Chief Justice Roberts engineered the proceedings of the case to get the outcome that he and conservatives wanted—which helped the Republican Party.
A foreshadowing consequence of this decision was the ability of foreign actors to participate in elections. Sound familiar?
The plaintiffs in Shelby challenged sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, targeting “preclearance.” In preclearance, specified jurisdictions (some whole states) had to “preclear” any changes to election rules with the federal government before implementing them. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs that the preclearance formula was out of date and thus unconstitutional, although Congress argued otherwise. That view rendered section 5 inoperable.
Roberts, in his opinion, cited “minority candidates [holding] office at unprecedented levels” as a reason for the preclearance formula to be ruled as unconstitutional. He wrote, “while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
For Roberts, America just wasn’t racist enough to keep preclearance.
Almost immediately, as a result of the ruling, voter suppression once again reared its ugly head in former slaveholding states. Congress has yet to amend voting rights. Joe Biden doesn’t seem able to change that.
This is the current condition.
Donald Trump didn’t make America great. However, Justice Roberts made it worse simply because of engineering Citizens United to allow for unlimited funds to go to any candidate — usually candidates that aren’t friendly to matters concerning Black people — while righting what he believed to be a constitutional wrong dating back to 1981 with the Shelby decision, as he continues to rage against voting rights.
In 2000, Florida Republicans understood that the presidency presented an opportunity to stack the deck in a changing political and demographic reality vis-à-vis Bush and Roberts.
Indeed, stolen elections have consequences.
Rann Miller is director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .
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