An entitlement is guaranteed access to benefits based on established rights or legislation and a right is itself an entitlement associated with moral or social principles to the extent that an entitlement is made in accordance with a society’s legal framework. Typically, entitlements based on rights are founded on the concept of social equality or enfranchisement, but over the past four years Republicans gave the term entitlement a pejorative connotation referring to the notion an undeserving person believes they are owed a particular benefit without cause. Yesterday, a legal advocate for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers cemented his position as a high-ranking Republican by using entitlement in a racially depreciatory context typical of extremist conservatives and it is a sign that racial bigotry permeates the highest levels of government.
Yesterday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments for why or why not, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) should be upheld. Section 5 stipulates that nine states, mostly in the South, would be free to change voting procedures after first getting permission from federal officials, and it incited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to say that the landmark civil rights law amounted to “a perpetuation of racial entitlement.” For Scalia to claim the VRA is a perpetuation of racial entitlement, especially “perpetuation,” really means there was never a need for the Act to protect African Americans right to vote, and that they are getting an undeserved benefit. Americans at one time took pride that the right to vote extended to all citizens, including African Americans, because the right to vote is not an “entitlement” they do not deserve, but a fundamental right guaranteed by the law.
The last election revealed that in many Republican-controlled states the right to vote was being curtailed to disenfranchise African American voters using ALEC template legislation aimed at suppressing Democratic votes. The High Court’s Chief Justice, John Roberts, incredulously asked whether “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North,” and the answer is most likely yes, and it brings up an important point. The question the Court should be considering is not whether the VRA should be struck down, but should it be expanded to cover any state under Republican and ALEC’s control.
ALEC was instrumental in providing Republican-controlled states template legislation to disenfranchise disabled, low-income, elderly, people-of-color, and student voters who move frequently or do not drive by requiring all voters to show state-issued voter ID at the polls even though traditionally, counties accepted other residency proof without any significant problems. ALEC and the Koch brothers are staunch advocates of state’s rights that will allow Republicans to disqualify African American voters with impunity from the Federal authorities if the Supreme Court rules in favor of ALEC, the Kochs, and Republican attempts to rig and steal elections. Justice Scalia has close ties to the Koch brothers who are intricately connected to ALEC and it is not surprising he considers it an unearned entitlement for African Americans to have the right to vote freely because they typically vote for Democrats.
Scalia considers himself a constitutional originalist who has no regard for the Constitution as a living document that must be updated according to the necessities of the time such as African Americans having the right to vote, or being protected from racial barriers to voting that were not in the original document. For a renowned constitutional scholar, Scalia should be familiar with the Ninth Amendment that says, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” and it addresses rights of the people that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, but are implied, or amended to include rights such as whether African Americans, as legal citizens of the United States, have the right to vote. Scalia’s despicable comment that the Voting Rights Act was a “perpetuation” of racial entitlement was perfectly normal in his mind; however, the idea that the Voting Rights Act granted African Americans special benefits at the polls was beyond the pale. Section 5 prohibited states from enacting laws that prevent African Americans from exercising their legal right to vote without special requirements such as ALEC’s voter ID and suppression laws being implemented in Republican-controlled states in Southern and Northern states.
Scalia’s comment was racially motivated to be sure, but he is setting the stage for casting his vote to strike down Section 5 of the VRA, and it is likely he and the corporate arm of the High Court (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito) would strike down the entire VRA to deny the right to vote to people of color to prevent Democrats from winning elections if they thought they could get away with it. Scalia and Clarence Thomas have long-standing ties to the Koch brothers, ALEC, American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation who support state’s rights to disenfranchise Democratic voters, and will go to any lengths to guarantee Republican victories in state and federal elections. However, one never imagined Scalia would openly declare his racism and disdain for the most basic of rights in an open and free democracy, but then again it is Antonin Scalia. He has spent the past four years openly campaigning for Republican causes and it is but one reason he is the least qualified man in America to decide the constitutionality of something as basic, and important, as the right to vote. Justices are appointed to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, but with Scalia it amounts to a “perpetuation of corporate entitlement” that ALEC, the Koch brothers, and Republicans will benefit from until the Supreme Court’s corporate wing dies or retires.