Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is pretty much a long shot to be Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic ticket this year; those odds became even longer this week when, while pulling out of contention herself, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar made it clear she thought Biden should pick a woman of color.
Jokes aside about whether being 1/1024th Native American puts Warren in the running, Klobuchar became the latest of the class of 2020 Democratic also-rans to toss Warren under the bus on their way out.
It seems that even as the progressivism seems to be having Its Moment this summer, one of its standard-bearers is receding from public view.
Statements like this probably aren’t going to help, either. Take this video, in which Warren calls for a constitutional amendment that already exists:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “We cannot just be allies. We must be anti-racists.” pic.twitter.com/ByBSWQRpZp
— The Hill (@thehill) June 19, 2020
An emphatic Warren, straight off the bat: “We need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every United States citizen the right to vote and to have that vote counted.”
This is curious, inasmuch as the 15th Amendment essentially says just that. While it doesn’t ban federal and state governments from ever restricting voting rights, it does prohibit those governments from implementing restrictions based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
In essence, it was meant to guarantee former slaves the right to vote:
“Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
“Section 2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Yes, Elizabeth Warren was paid more than $400,000 to teach law at Harvard in 2010-11, according to The Associated Press, but forgot the 15th Amendment was still in effect and has been since 1870. While it took quite a while for the words of the amendment to be effectively true — the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the poll taxes and literacy tests rampant in Democrat-controlled Dixie at the time — the amendment has been part of the Constitution for 150 years.
Of course, this isn’t quite what Warren means. In the next breath, she says it’s time “to restore the Voting Rights Act and overturn every racist voter suppression law.”
The Voting Rights Act is still a piece of very active legislation, mind you; what she means is she wants to overturn Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court case that held a provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required certain states and jurisdictions to apply to the federal government before they made changes to their voting procedures, was unconstitutional given that it was based on conditions that were almost a half-century old.
And when Warren talks about “every racist voter suppression law,” note that she also isn’t just talking about voter identification laws, the old bogeyman for the left when talking about voter suppression.
Instead, any legislation that results in fewer voters than the Democrats think will fall their way is prima facie racist. Let’s consider closely the case of Stacey Abrams.
Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, has long contended that so-called “voter suppression” laws led to her losing the race to Brian Kemp. Her supporters have challenged the laws as “racist.”
Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s hardly clear Abrams would have won in the absence of this legislation. There are two laws in particular that the Democrats have come down hard upon: an exact-match law and a law that purges certain voters.
The former law states that the information on your voter registration application — name, date of birth, etc. — must exactly match state records. If not, you’re notified by the state that this information needs to be corrected. If you don’t respond, your registration application is invalid.
The latter law, which was passed by a Democratic state legislature, involves mechanisms by which voters are removed from the state voter rolls. Many voters are removed because they’ve been convicted of felonies or moved away from the state, but most of them have been removed because of the “use it or lose it” provision. Essentially, if you hadn’t voted for a period of years and you didn’t respond to a state notice that asked you whether you wanted to stay on the rolls, you were removed.
These were the laws that were deemed “racist” by Abrams’ supporters. While part of this was the fact they were enforced under the supervision of now-Gov. Kemp while he was secretary of state, it’s difficult to contend that these provisions specifically targeted people of color.
Yet, when Warren says she wants a constitutional amendment that will wrestle with “every racist voter suppression law,” this is probably what she’s talking about.
This shouldn’t really be news. Warren’s recycling one of her campaign promises, in which she promised the right-to-vote amendment and a plan to federalize elections so that control was taken out of the hands of local governments.
However, part of politics is having a certain genius for repackaging your ideas when the moment hits, which is exactly what Warren is doing here. The Massachusetts senator is using the recent protests to remind Democrats that while she has “never experienced and can never truly understand the fear, the oppression and the pain that confronts black Americans … none of us can ignore what is happening in this country.”
“We cannot just be allies. We must be anti-racists,” she says in the video.
And that’s what the Republican lawmakers of the post Civil War era did when they ratified the 15th Amendment, and what bipartisan lawmakers did when they passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Both of them are still operative and the nebulous changes Warren is describing have no chance of happening in the immediate future. They’re not going to make her any more attractive as a running mate, either.
Of the issues voters will be concerned with this November, enacting a new 15th Amendment won’t be one of them.
CORRECTION, June 21, 2020: This article originally misstated now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s previous position in state government. He was secretary of state.
UPDATE, Sept. 19, 2020: This article has been updated to note that while the 15th Amendment doesn’t ban federal and state governments from ever restricting voting rights, it does prohibit those governments from implementing restrictions based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Thus, it was meant to serve as a guarantee that former slaves’ voting rights could not be restricted due to the color of their skin, their ethnicity or their status as former slaves.
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