Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post.
The Roberts court chose a most cynical way to celebrate this summer’s 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s penultimate day in session before the Aug. 28 semi-centenary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the court’s conservative majority announced a 5 to 4 ruling that guts one of King’s greatest triumphs, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (The Roberts court weakened another of King’s triumphs, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in a pair of 5-to-4 rulings on Monday.)
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote Tuesday’s opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, was 10 years old in 1965, when police officers beat and gassed citizens in Selma, Ala., demonstrating for the right to vote; that assault, and King’s subsequent march from Selma to Montgomery, spurred passage of the very law Roberts and his colleagues undid on Tuesday by declaring a key provision outdated.
But if Roberts was ready to move on from that bit of civil rights history, 80-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a young law professor during the civil rights era, was not going to let Roberts and his colleagues in the majority ignore that they were invalidating years of bipartisan efforts in Congress toward “achieving what was once the subject of a dream: the equal citizenship stature of all in our polity, a voice to every voter in our democracy undiluted by race.”...