Alabama, Vote, Election
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Alabama’s defiance of a Supreme Court order to amend its racist congressional map could have much worse consequences than just disenfranchising the state’s Black population.

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You can say what you want (and we have) about the merits of its recent rulings, justices on the take from billionaires, and how one of the seats on the bench was stolen, but what you cannot say about the Supreme Court is that abiding by its decisions is optional.

Unless you are an Alabama Republican, apparently.

On Friday, GOP lawmakers openly defied an order from the Supreme Court to amend the state’s racially gerrymandered congressional map by creating a second majority-Black district (or something “close to it”).

Admittedly, when the ruling was made, everybody was surprised that, for once, the high court did something in support of voting rights instead of taking them away. However, Alabama had weeks to come up with a non-racist map and just didn’t do it.

In the end, all they could muster was to increase the share of Black voters in a second congressional district to just below 40 percent, which is neither a majority nor “close to it.”

And it wasn’t just the state’s lawmakers who brazenly defied the highest court in the land. That would have been (somewhat) understandable since GOP-controlled legislatures are some of the most radical, anti-democratic, and crazy places in the country.

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These days, they probably rank somewhere between a KKK rally, a QAnon conference, and one of those Nazi-themed parties that Clarence Thomas’s benefactor Harlan Crow likes to throw.

Therefore, it was conceivable that Alabama’s lawmakers would come up with a new map that was as discriminatory as the last one. After all, they have a proud tradition of racism states’ rights to uphold.

But what is even more troubling is that Governor Kay Ivey signed it.. and what she had to say about the map.

“Following the US Supreme Court order, I called the Alabama Legislature into a special session to readdress our political map,” she said. “The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than federal courts or activist groups, and I am pleased that they answered the call, remained focused and produced new districts ahead of the court deadline.”

She might as well have said: “Yankees, stay out of it when we put our Blacks in their place.” Well, she probably wouldn’t have used “Blacks”… maybe Rep. Eli Crane (AZ) has some ideas for alternative language.

In any case, this means that two of the three branches of Alabama’s government openly defied an order from the highest court in the land.

It is a new escalation in the GOP’s assault on the country’s institutions.

As flawed as many of them are, and the Supreme Court is plenty flawed, they still play an essential role in society.

In this case, without a final arbiter who can define the rules of the country, there are no rules.

The stakeholders — states, businesses, and institutions — can’t just abide by the decisions (or the laws, for that matter) that are convenient for them. If they do, society unravels.

Take a game of football. Without the referees, who are much smaller and wear neither padding nor helmets, there would be no game, just mayhem. Yet, all they have to maintain order are yellow handkerchiefs and whistles.

But that’s enough because all stakeholders — players, coaches, and spectators — recognize that this authority is needed for there to be a game at all.

It’s like that with the Supreme Court.

The stakeholders — states, businesses, and institutions — can’t just abide by the decisions (or the laws, for that matter) that are convenient for them. If they do, society unravels.

Therefore, what happens next is extremely important.

The only acceptable outcome is for a court to scrap this latest map and order an expert to draw one that actually complies with the decision, and for Alabama to grudgingly go with it.

Anything else — for example, the Supreme Court saying, “Well, close enough” — would be a disaster. If the new map is allowed to stand, then that will be a concession that states get to defy rulings they don’t like.

Essentially, the Supreme Court would turn its decisions into advisories, which would trigger a free-for-all as states pick and choose which rulings they would like to comply with. 

And it would be equally bad if a third party were to draw a new map and Alabama were to refuse to implement it.

Both of these scenarios would set off crises with unimaginable consequences.

So, for now, we just have to wait and hope that this flawed Supreme Court can hold the line.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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