Bill Maher raged at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday over the high court’s decision to effectively cripple the Voting Rights Act (VRA) on Tuesday, Mediaite reported.
“Just the fact that he talks about black people voting as an ‘entitlement,’ that is so much more racist than anything Paula Deen ever said,” Maher told his Real Time panelists after reading remarks from Scalia, adding that he didn’t know how he ended up becoming Deen’s “champion,” since he would have confused her for former televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker just a year ago.
“We have replaced having a conversation about race with, ‘Oh, liberals feel good about themselves if they make the bad person go away,’” Maher said to the panel. “‘Who’s the bad person? The one we caught saying that one word.’”
Maher pointed to 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner’s criticism that he had never heard of the “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty” of the states, which the high court cited in striking down Section IV of the VRA, saying, Justice Roberts’ opinion “rests on air.”
“In other words, Justice Roberts just pulled [it] out of his ass,” Maher said. “This is what I love about the Supreme Court. You think that they’re so high-minded and you hear the things Scalia says. He quotes talking points from Fox News.”
Maher also cited conservative political figures Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich as examples of “worse racists” than Deen who remained in the public spotlight because they hadn’t used a particular racist slur.
“You’re welcome to say that,” conservative commentator Horace Cooper responded. “What the law is is what Congress passed. And Congress didn’t pass a law that says, ‘You can’t say shuck and jive.’”
The high court, he continued, cannot enforce a law that interprets language Maher might feel is unfair. Cooper then argued that the Department of Justice was “migrating away from actually enforcing and arresting and prosecuting people,” and was instead focusing on Maher’s “racism 2.0.”
“There is no just Voting Rights Act enforcement law that doesn’t single out places like Chicago and Philadelphia for voter fraud,” Cooper insisted. “By the way, the people that are losing their rights in Philadelphia and Chicago tend to be overwhelmingly Black, and Democrat. It’s not about race, it’s about it not serving the political needs of the administration to go after those ‘Blue state’ jurisdictions. It’s much better to go after the ‘Red states.’”
When Maher began to respond that the GOP was responding to not being able to attract the African-American vote, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis pointed out that the VRA was renewed in a widely bipartisan vote in 2006 under George W. Bush.
“And overturning that big conservative move, wasn’t that judicial activism?” Maher asked the panel. “Isn’t that what you hate?”
“Absolutely not,” Cooper answered. “Where’s Indianapolis? Where’s Kansas City? Where are these places where it’s happening today?”
Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Neil, a North Carolina native, argued that the areas placed under extra scrutiny by the VRA were “the old Confederacy,” then drew the connection between them and Deen.
“She said, ‘I is what I is,’ and I ain’t gonna change,’” Neil told Maher. “That is precisely the mindset of the old Confederacy, and why they merited extra scrutiny.”
The Voting Rights Act, Maher argued, created “a shitlist” of areas that merited extra judicial attention because they were “fucking with voters.”
“They got on this list the old-fashioned way: they earned it,” Maher told the panel. “And so Justice Roberts is saying, ‘Do they have to be on probation forever? Things have changed.’ And I would say things have changed, but it’s more like racism went from racism 1.0 to 2.0.”
The advent of “voter ID” laws, Maher argued, were the modern version of voter suppression tools like poll taxes.
But Soltis countered that Section II of the VRA still gave people the right to sue if they felt they were the victims of discrimination at the polls.
“The Supreme Court didn’t strike down the idea that you can require pre-clearance,” she continued over Maher’s objection. “They just said [to Congress], ‘You have to come up with a different way of deciding that a place is significantly racist.’”
“Knowing that would never happen in today’s congress,” Maher responded.
“It’s not the Supreme Court’s job to rule based on how effective or ineffective they think Congress is,” Soltis answered back.
Cooper, a native Texan, took exception to Neil’s depiction of the South.
“It is not acceptable for the Department of Justice to say, ‘We are not going to bring an actual prosecution in these jurisdictions; we just know they were bad 40 or 50 years ago,’” Cooper said. “You don’t go to the banks that got robbed 40 or 50 years ago and beef up the security today. You look around to see where the problems are.”
Cooper said the Justice Department ignored a letter from his organization pointing out voting trouble spots, almost none of which were in the South.
“This is not a close call,” Neil responded. “Texas, your home state, has instituted very punitive voting restrictions just in the past 48 hours. They have a lousy record of voting rights. And it’s only being exacerbated by the fact that, because of gerrymandered districts, there’s no electoral consequence to this behavior.”
Watch video of Maher’s discussion with his panel, via YouTube: