Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 was a loss for the Obama administration, which had used the Voting Rights Act to attack state voter ID laws, suggesting that they were racist. In February, President Barack Obama urged that the Voting Rights Act be upheld fully for the sake of voting rights–even though the circumstances that led to the law’s passage in 1965 no longer exist.
Critics at the time warned that Obama–and Attorney General Eric Holder, who made a crusade out of opposing voter ID laws–were placing the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy by targeting voter ID laws similar to those that the Supreme Court had already upheld in other states. Those critics have been proven correct.
And yet Obama’s attacks on voter ID laws served their political purpose. They created a sense of alarm and outrage among black voters, who were told by Obama and Holder that their rights were in jeopardy. That, in turn, likely motivated some Obama voters to make sure they went to the polls in the belief their rights, and the gains of the civil rights struggle more generally, were at stake in Obama’s victory or defeat in 2012.
So–a loss for the Obama administration, and a win for the Obama campaign. Most important, the decision is a win for the country as a whole, both as a confirmation of our progress and as an affirmation of states’ constitutional powers. But for campaign purposes, look for more outrage from the Obama administration.