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The Supreme Court’s True Colors Ignore “Fairness”

Lee A. Daniels | 7/12/2013, 1:36 p.m.

The Supreme Court’s conservative faction recently revealed more clearly than ever before its true colors. It showed that in the political war over America’s future it supports those who want to return to the exclusionary policies and practices of the past.

It comes as no surprise that this is the guiding principle of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. Their contempt for using the law to right injustice and expand the franchise of democracy has never before been so nakedly displayed.

The conservative justices’ posture was apparent both in the decisions narrowing affirmative action and in the evisceration of the key “pre-clearance” provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Their callous conservatism was also at the heart of the Court’s decision limiting workers’ protections against harassment in the workplace.

That latter decision, Vance v. Ball State University , received far less media attention than the other cases.

The conservatives’ recent opinions have as little to do with establishing “fairness” as the Court’s infamous Citizens United decision of 2010 had to do with “free speech” for multibillion-dollar corporations. On the contrary, Citizens United was merely the smokescreen for freeing the conservative elite to spend billions of dollars to defeat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

Similarly, an unctuous pretense saturates the conservatives’ positions in the Vance, Voting Rights, and affirmative action cases. Those decisions have nothing to do with racial fairness. Instead, like the notorious 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, they hide their intent to shore up white privilege behind sham notions of “color-blindness.”

It’s worth remembering that in the Plessy era, a rhetorical allegiance to color-blindness was central to racists’ assertion that the doctrine of “separate but equal” was a fair ordering of,American society. Such a notion – effectively the law of the land for the next six decades – was not only profoundly undemocratic but also, operationally speaking, nonsensical.

Across the land, Republican legislators and operatives quickly jumped to take advantage of the conservative factions’ blows against democracy by drafting more restrictive voter-identification laws and by further undermining affirmative action via state laws and referenda.

However, key political and social developments of these first years of the twenty-first century indicate that the conservative aggressiveness is motivating liberal response.

The conservative faction’s gift to Republicans in the Bush v. Gore election was supposed to break black Americans’ political spirit and influence. In fact, the black vote became even more important as more blacks streamed to the polls, defeating the Republican Party’s neo-Jim Crow voter-suppression efforts in state after state.

A decade ago, many forecast that the sudden emergence of the issue of gay marriage would sharply undermine the gay rights movement and produce a steep decline in the fortunes of the progressive coalition. But just the opposite has occurred.

A decade ago, conservatives were boasting that Latino Americans were on the verge of flocking to the GOP “Big Tent” – before Latinos realized they couldn’t – and still can’t – turn off the neon-lit “whites-only” sign blocking the tent’s entrance.

And recently, when it seemed the forces of reaction in the Texas state legislature were going to steamroller an extreme anti-abortion measure to passage, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis’ startling filibuster gave the progressive coalition a new heroine – and re-affirmed this political era’s over-arching lesson.

That is that conservative actions provoke victorious progressive reactions. That means that in terms of the future of America, blue is a “truer” color than red.

Lee A. Daniels is a columnist for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.