NOW with Alex Wagner | February 27, 2013
>>> hour after hour, people stayed in line to support her. because desoline is 200 years old. she put on a sticker that read i voted.
>> that was president obama turning the spotlight on voter rights during the state of the union address . he vowed to create a commission including requirements to show voter id . mark, we have you with us. what i see is a very -- i mean, to be honest, the question of the right to vote is on a knife's edge in terms of the national landscape here. we have these laws. 30 states enacted a form of voter id law. if you listen to pete william's analysis, the court may cut down the act. where does that leave americans in terms of where do we go from here to ensure people have access to ballots come november?
>> democracy in voting is the foundation of america. we have fought long battles. the constitution has been amended to give african- americans the right to vote, the give women the right to vote. to give 18-year-olders the right to vote. we have always had an expansion of democracy which has been the trend. this generation of leaders, the court, the president and the congress, it's good to see the president propose a commission to look at this issue and create transparency. i think in america while fighting wars to create democracy overseas, we have to protect democracy here at home and ensure, ensure that every american has a right to vote in an important way. the more people who participate in our elections the stronger american democracy is. k si agree, mark. i can only imagine the outcry from all corners of this country will be deafening. thank you for your time.
>> thanks, alex.
>> joining us from capitol hill , keith ellison . it's great to have you on the program. there's much to discussion.
>> i want to begin with the latest from the supreme court . the thinking that they may strike down parts of the voting rights act and effectively kick it back to congress as a member of congress. we know that in 2006 , the house reauthorized the voting rights act 390 to 33 the senate 98-0. it's pretty bipartisan. given the way things are on capitol hill these days, where do you land in terms of optimism and the voting rights act ?
>> we don't have any choice but to be optimistic and reach out to people in a bipartisan way and say look, all americans should be able to vote. the vote should be something all americans get and political parties should contend with voters to win them to their side, not eliminate them from the opportunity to vote. i don't want to predict doom and gloom. i want to say the supreme court is going to look at the 15,000 pages congress generated in all the hearings that it had and say look, i guess the democratic body is in the best position to make a decision here. if we end up having to deal with it over here in congress, i'm looking forward to working with republican friends to do the right thing.
>> congressman, let me open it up to our panel for a moment. david corn , what is -- there are many disturbing things coming out of the supreme court today. the idea of racial entitlement that we discussed at the beginning of the show is of a piece with a broader narrative of makers versus takers. they want more than they deserve.
>> special treatment. the fact that scalia, when he used the phrase of entitlement, the senate voted 98-0 in favor of renewing the voter rights act a few years ago. what he's saying is these people, these senators, 98 republican and democrat have been so cowed by racial political correctiveness that i, justice scalia have to rush in and do something about it. justice roberts who three decades ago when he was in the reagan administration as a young lawyer , he wrote briefs against the voter rights act. there's a real move here to finally do this while you said earlier, this is really separate from the ongoing discussion we have had in the last year about what to do about voting.
>> go ahead.
>> just one question. i'm sorry to play devil's advocate. i would probably expand section v to cover the whole country. the flip side of this is, at what point do you say progress has been made and the world has changed? the world has not changed enough -- hold on. the flip side , the constitutionality, there's gerrymandering going on all over the country. there's problems with voting for minorities in states way beyond these nine. how do you think about that? that's what this is really all about.
>> i don't disagree. i think there's something to that. sorry, alex.
>> go ahead. i think that as you say, it is going on elsewhere. it's hard, once you start winding things back, we saw it in the election in ohio, for instance. there was a huge debate over early voting . the romney supporters made a huge push. it was distorted in their case against it to make it sound as if african-american voters were getting something they weren't entitled to. military voters were getting something taken away. the latter was not true. it was the same for everybody with that. i agree with you on one hand, there's a point we say when can we start and when do we look at things differently.
>> once you use the phrase racial entitlement, it's a different realm. representative ellison, i want to bring you back in here. politico has a great analysis of what's going on with the supreme court whether it's good or bad for the parties. the courts move more slowly and the key issues that electrified are only in front of the justices. many in the gop are eager to put them behind them. i don't think sh shlacking is an appropriate term. you have a court that could dismantle a landmark civil rights case in advance of taking up the issue of gay marriage which is not good for the republicans either.
>> it's not go to see section v struck down. it resin forces the idea they are not a party of everybody. they are the party for an exclusive few. if you listen to governor jindal, he says expand this thing, not restrict it and limit other people. i want to comment about the folks who say how long is long enough? it's important to remember that the voting rights act has provisions for jurisdictions to get out if they can demonstrate that they should not be in. but, if any city should stay in, these people are in this court case because they excluded minority voters. it's actually a weird case to be coming forward to talk about getting rid of section v.