Jun 30, 2016

Ari Berman's Strange Infatuation with James Sensenbrenner

Updated - Ari Berman's persistent pretend games that Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) is a voting rights champion long ago passed the point of absurdity.

Today, Berman continues his descent, following a host of progressive writers who are working to enshrine mandatory photo voter ID as the cost of passing the Voting Rights Act amendment bill.

Why doesn't Berman just be straight with readers and make plain Berman's end-game strategy, a strategy that includes pretending Sensenbrenner is anything but a racist clown?

Writes Berman in The Nation:

More recently, GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner led the effort to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006; he’s one of the few Republicans working to restore the law after the Supreme Court gutted it in 2013. 'I would rather lose my job than suppress votes to keep it,' Sensenbrenner wrote in The New York Times in March.

Only 14 congressional Republicans have cosponsored Sensenbrenner’s Voting Rights Amendment Act.

Berman will say and ignore any and everything to see this piece of trash legislation get a vote in the judicial committees.

Berman cites Sensenbrenner’s 'I would rather lose my job than suppress votes to keep it,' without comment. Some facts:

Sensenbrenner's effort to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 2006 began after George W. Bush and Karl Rove decided the reeling Bush needed the VRA passed.

As described in Gary May's Bending Toward Justice - The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Gary May, Basic Books, 2013) Rove and Bush did one hell of a job of conjuring LBJ in the White House, and as noted by May and Joseph Morgan Kousser cajoled Congress into passing a 25-year reauthorization in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Writes May:


(D)uring his second term Bush found it necessary to court black voters. The president's slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks disproportionally and revealed again the presence of widespread poverty in the South, damaged Bush's standing. In an attempt to recoup his political fortunes as congressional elections approached in 2006, Bush turned to the black community. On a trip to Memphis visited the Loraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He also agreed to address the NAACP's annual convention, which he had ignored for six years. There Bush was received coolly but won a standing ovation when he expressed his support for the Voting Rights Act, urging congress to enact it then, one year before it was due to expire. This was not simply rhetoric. Behind the scenes Bush's staff encouraged Republicans, who now controlled both houses of Congress, to extend the Act. And this time the Republican congressional leadership in both the House and Senate were receptive to such appeals because if you weren't a southerner, there was no political payoff for attacking the now-iconic Voting Right Act. (pp 273-274)
So, then House Judiciary Committee Chair Sensenbrenner was going to defy Bush and Rove on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 2006?

Sensenbrenner's contemporary bill to restore the VRA explicitly protects photo voter ID from scrutiny under his proposed VRA amendment.

Some comments previously noted in these pages about the 2015-16 Voting Rights Amendment Act authored by Sensenbrenner:

The Voting Rights Amendment Act specifically protects the Republican Party's most important voter obstruction weapon—the restrictive photo voter ID law used by Republican-led states to obstruct the wrong kind of voters from casting their preference at the ballot bin/machine.

Reads Sensenbrenner's 2015-16 bill in the Congressional summary:

Excludes from the list of violations triggering jurisdiction retention authority any voting qualification or prerequisite which results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote that is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in a federal, state, or local election. (emphasis added)

Photo Voter ID has been exposed for what it is, a scheme to obstruct people from the polls who are likely to not vote Republican. See Judge Richard Posner's extraordinary 2014 "On Suggestion of Rehearing En Banc" in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Wisconsin photo voter ID bill; (Posner, Frank v. Walker), (Mal Contends), (Brad Friedman) ( Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times).

Judge Richard Posner's extraordinary
2014 On Suggestion of Rehearing En Banc
, (p. 17).
Suggestion failed five to five, green-lighting
Wisconsin's photo voter ID law after the U.S.
Supreme Court failed to grant cert. Since 2014,
strict photo ID laws have spread even more.
So why would a Congressman who says he cares about voting rights protect state voter obstruction? Because that congressman, James Sensenbrenner, is a liar.

Civil rights activists, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have supported iterations of Sensenbrenner's bill in the past, hoping, I am told by a civil rights activist, the photo voter ID language would be amended out.

Sure, that's going to happen under Republican House leadership.

Said Sensenbrenner in 2014 in a townhall meeting in Rubicon, Wisconsin in his district: "The good part about the Voting Rights Act modernization is that I got a provision in there that basically gets Eric Holder out of going after photo ID laws," the 18-term Badger State congressman claims on the undercover video, (National Review), (James O'Keefe).

Sensenbrenner's posturing in the New York Times that he is risking his his lilly-white and segregated congressional seat is ludicrous. As is Berman's using Sensenbrenner's posturing without comment.

Sensenbrenner's also said in 2104, "I hope the president vetoes the bill. ...  If the president vetoes—well, let me rephrase that – if the president vetoes this bill, he will lose an awful lot of the African-American support that he has," (Roth, MSNBC), (James O'Keefe).

Why would a champion of the Voting Rights Act want the U.S. DoJ to not retain any jurisdiction over states' voter obstruction?

Sensenbrenner Defends Texas and Wisconsin's Voter Obstruction

If Sensenbrenner's duplicity were not sufficiently clear, consider as well Sensenbrenner's outspoken support for two of the nation's most restrictive photo voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin.

Sensenbrenner, one of the few serving in Congress who opposed the federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, had this to say about Texas' vile photo voter ID law in 2103:

"



there are of course serious efforts to protect voting: The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment. Sensenbrenner supporting this mega-voting rights guarantee, and going against his Party's voter obstruction project is as likely as Sarah Palin winning a Nobel Prize in physics.

Sensenbrenner said Republican voter obstruction efforts such as Wisconsin's, are "common-sense efforts to ensure the identity and citizenship of voters," (July 2012) (Mal Contends).


There's more Sensenbrenner lies and hypocrisies of course, too many to list.

For example as noted here, Sensenbrenner's Wisconsin colleague in the House, Mark Pocan (D-Madison), specifically called out Republicans in Wisconsin and other states for obstructing voters in 2103.

Sensenbrenner should join Pocan.

Pocan has introduced a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee citizens' right to vote, protecting Americans against the ever-changing voter obstruction efforts now plaguing our nation, and committed by one political party—the Republican Party.

Pocan's amendment would also change the balance of power -- by altering the legal calculus for showing voters' rights are violated -- in favor of voters. As Pocan said, "There is no explicit right to vote in the Constitution. If we had an explicit right to vote, any state that passes a law that makes it harder to vote would have to prove that they’re not harming someone’s ability to vote rather than the opposite. Right now a person has to prove that they’ve been harmed by a state law. And it really changes the burden of proof on those states that pass these laws that really make it harder for people to vote," (Mal Contends).

Sensenbrenner refuses to join Pocan, both in condemning voter obstruction at the state level, and in refusing to support Pocan's proposed Right-to-Vote constitutional amendment.

Instead, Sensenbrenner toes the GOP line on state Republican voter obstruction efforts, to repeat, calling the obstruction, "common-sense efforts to ensure the identity and citizenship of voters," (July 2012).

What Sensenbrenner is pursuing is a cynical inside/out con game in which Sensenbrenner takes no political risks in appearing to seek to repair the eviscerated Voting Rights Act, while supporting Republican voter obstruction efforts on the state level.

One hopes this anti-American effort to obstruct the vote is stopped in its tracks, and Sensenbrenner's deplorable hypocrisy is revealed.

As for Shelby,the Supreme Court will reverse this clearly untenable decision, explaining in part why the Republican Senate is working so ferociously against Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, (White House).

Time to face the facts, the Democratic Party and civil rights establishment will sell out voters.

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