Amid news of Justice David Souter's pending retirement and predictions that the Supreme Court stands poised to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Professor Heather Gerken is lauding Souter's understandings of race and politics.
"Souter is perhaps the least politically connected person on the Court, and his home state of New Hampshire is a racially homogenous area that hasn't had much of a record either way with the Voting Rights Act," writes Gerken, a frequent ACS contributor. "Despite his lack of experience, Souter has carved out a position on the Voting Rights Act that is both more nuanced and more pragmatic than his brethren's."
It is odd for the conservatives to demand that the state be color-blind when voters are decidedly not. In a world of racial bloc voting, race-blind districting is simply a recipe for disempowering racial minorities. But the dominant story of race told by the liberals on the Court - one that treats racial minorities as "objects of judicial solicitude, rather than as efficacious political actors in their own right," in the words of Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan - similarly misses something important. It misses the idea that putting representatives of the minority community into positions of power gives racial minorities the power to protect themselves, so that eventually they no longer need be wards of the Court.