On Tuesday night, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert blasted the Supreme Court for its controversial ruling that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
The decision, as Oliver explained on “The Daily Show,” removed a part of the landmark Civil Rights bill that applied strict scrutiny to states with histories of discrimination against minority voters -- places like “Whitesylvania, Pale-afornia, Caucasiacut, Klansas and Mississippi,” he joked.
Given the law’s historical import, Oliver expressed hope that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the ruling opinion in the case, had a “very compelling” reason for gutting it. He was not particularly impressed, then, by Roberts’ simple assertion that “this country has changed.”
While Oliver agreed that the country has changed radically since the law was passed he, like many other critics of the court, suggested that this was evidence the Voting Rights Act had worked, not that it was obsolete.
“Racially, things have got better in the South primarily because of things like, um, I don’t know, the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” he said, adding, “That’s the piece of legislation that has a hole in it the exact shape of John Roberts’ middle finger.”
Oliver argued that the law remains as relevant as ever: “You might think it’s so old … when does the Justice Department ever need to protect minority voters by invoking Section 5? And the answer is basically never, if 'basically never' means 74 times since the year 2000.”
As evidence, he pointed to Texas, one of the states flagged by the act, where, less than two hours after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott reinstated a strict voter ID law that was blocked last August.
“It takes Texas less time to disenfranchise minority voters than it takes for them to barbecue a pig,” Oliver quipped.
Later on “The Colbert Report,” Colbert also noted the apparent irony of striking down a law because it appeared to have been effective.
“Yes, for some reason, since the Voting Rights Act was passed, things have changed dramatically,” he said. “It’s just like those outdated labor laws that prohibit children from threading bobbins on a loom. A kid hasn’t been sucked into one of those machines in years.”
Colbert also turned to author and historian Peniel Joseph for a little perspective on the issue. "Congratulations on being here on the night that racism was officially declared over in America," he welcomed his guest.
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