The Morning Jolt

Law & the Courts

The Supreme Court’s Ruling on ‘Racially Gerrymandered’ Districts

Demonstrators protest during a Fair Maps rally outside the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C., March 26, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Supreme Court rules against Virginia’s state legislature (and Elbridge Gerry is slandered again!), President Trump weighs his options in the wake of Iranian malfeasance, and I attempt (and fail) to find one redeeming quality in O. J. Simpson’s decision to join Twitter.

Supreme Court Strikes down Virginia’s ‘Racially Gerrymandered’ Districts

Gerrymandering is a practice with a lengthy bipartisan history, though you’d never know it from the relentless messaging of Democratic operatives and the press corps. Dan McLaughlin’s 2017 piece here at NR on gerrymandering is worth a read, if only for the evidence that it provides of the unremarkable electoral impact of Republican redistricting efforts and the selective amnesia of Democrats who “dominated the House of Representatives for four uninterrupted decades from 1954 to 1994, and . . . did so with the considerable help of partisan gerrymanders.”

With that as context, the Supreme Court reached a decision yesterday in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, which found that an electoral map in Virginia was “racially gerrymandered in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.” The Virginia House appealed a district court’s finding of a racial gerrymander, which ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court. So often, the line between partisan gerrymandering — which the Rehnquist Court held to be “non-judiciable” in Vieth v. Jubelirer — and racial gerrymandering is difficult to establish as political polarization breaks out along racial lines. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan in striking down a map drawn by the Virginia state legislature, but largely avoided the substance of this distinction and instead took issue with the Virginia House’s standing. From Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog:

The House of Delegates, Ginsburg explained, argued first that it had standing to appeal to the Supreme Court to represent Virginia’s interests. But Virginia law makes clear, Ginsburg emphasized, that only the state’s attorney general has the authority to represent the state in civil litigation. Indeed, Ginsburg noted, even if Virginia had given the House of Delegates the power to represent the state, the House of Delegates never indicated in the lower court that it was doing so; instead, “the House has purported to represent its own interests” throughout the case… Ginsburg observed that state law gives power over redistricting to the state’s General Assembly, “of which the House constitutes only a part.” This case is therefore different, Ginsburg reasoned, from a 2015 case in which the Supreme Court agreed that both houses of Arizona’s legislature could challenge the constitutionality of a referendum that gave authority over redistricting to an independent commission. 

CNN reports that former attorney general and presidential “wingman” Eric Holder said the court’s ruling ensures that “all Virginians will now — finally — have the opportunity this fall to elect a House of Delegates that actually represents the will of the people.”

Worth noting: Dan points out in his 2017 piece that both former President “Obama and Holder are . . . ardent fans of interpreting the Voting Rights Act to require race-conscious gerrymandering to create ‘majority minority’ districts — i.e., districts in which a majority of voters are members of the same racial-minority group.”

Also worth noting: It’s unfortunate that former vice president Elbridge Gerry — whose surname forms the first half of the infamous “gerrymander” portmanteau — has come to be defined exclusively by the creatively culled voting districts that he sanctioned as governor of Massachusetts. Gerry himself reportedly called the decision “highly disagreeable”; more than that, he was a voice of principled opposition to federal overreach at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and ultimately helped to secure the freedom of assembly clause in the First Amendment.

Trump Commits One Thousand Troops to Iran

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Trump administration will deploy 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East in response to Iran’s announced eclipse of the uranium limits set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The president’s proposed action comes as Iranian officials express their frustration with global sanctions imposed on the country.

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. military officials said the additional troops will help provide security and intelligence in the region amid heightened tensions over a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Washington has blamed Iran for the attacks. Tehran has denied any involvement.

The U.S. already has more than 20,000 troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Last month the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier, other warships, bombers and additional forces to counter what officials said was a growing threat from Iran. Officials declined to say where or when the new troops would be deployed.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Tampa, Fla., for Tuesday meetings with Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, and Gen. Richard Clarke, who heads U.S. special operations forces.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson weighed in on his program last night, comparing Pompeo’s confidence to what he called the “misplaced certainty” of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in the prelude to the Iraq war.

Early this morning, the Washington Post reports that Trump “characterized alleged attacks by Iran against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman as ‘very minor’ and suggested that the United States might not go to war to protect international oil supplies.”

The Juice Is Loose

O. J. Simpson is on Twitter, and wants you to know, to borrow his most unfortunate choice of words, that he has “some getting even to do.”

The former Bills running back (that’s what he’s most famous for, no?) joined the platform last week, promising his followers that his account would be his venue to promote his sizzling-hot takes on “sports” and “politics.”

I’m generally disposed to believe in second chances — I think everyone in my generation does after Shinedown’s 2008 power ballad — but Simpson’s Twitter is utterly devoid of self-awareness and restraint. He has “some getting even to do?”

I won’t link to his Twitter account, for both your sanity and to expedite the facilitation of his.

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