Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Judging the Court

In a decision announced Monday, the Supreme Court followed the law on federal responsibility for immigration, supporting a lower court ruling that most of the Arizona law is unconstitutional.  But the Court continued to undermine the very basis of representative democracy by its partisan and ideological doubling down on the Citizens United decision by denying Montana its historic right to regulate political contributions in state elections.

Just how wildly Rabid Right the majority of this Court is can be seen in the amazement of the reaction to their brave decision to forbid mandatory life sentences for children.  And yet Samuel Alito made a spectacle of himself in his angry dissent delivered from the bench.  Of course children should automatically be thrown into prison for life!  Rachel's take on the day's decision gets it right.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg uttered her cryptic forecast of this week's decisions, she noted that dissents can be important in shaping later policy.  Presumably she wasn' talking about Alito or especially Scalia's demented rant on the Arizona decision.  But absent the Affordable Care Act decision, she may well have meant Justice Breyer's dissent on the Montana decision.  It does not display dazzling reasoning or appreciation for the nuances of the Constitution.  It merely points out that Montana cited actual historical evidence of big money donations leading to years of corruption in the state, whereas the Supreme 5 decided in Citizens United that this was so impossible that corporations must be permitted to spend as much as they wish.  That evidence was the very reason this law was passed--in 1912.  Again, Rachel points out the flaws in their argument that money is "speech."  Everybody has speech, not everybody has that kind of money.   A high school debater making this Court's argument would be laughed off the stage.

 Coupled with the decision last week to limit the "speech" of labor unions, it's a clear ideological and partisan power grab.  The Supremes, beginning with their entirely partisan Bush v. Gore decision that resulted in the Rabid Right almost solid 5 vote majority, are providing one of the major tools to create a one party system, GOPer rule forever: the mountains of cash from those who have it, overwhelmingly corporations supporting those who will vote and advocate the way the corporations want them to, and the billionaires who can throw around the equivalent of many lifetimes of income for most Americans on their pet causes and power grabs. 

The other half is restricting the right to vote. We'll see what contortions the Court 5 go into to help that along.  The partisan intent of those efforts were obvious even before some yahoo GOPer legislator in PA said it out loud.

In my lifetime, there have been worries about the political leanings of various justices, and while they had their points of view, most turned out to be judicious, justifying their opinions with legal argument.  But the wolf finally came. The ideological bent of this Court is so obvious that most legal experts polled agreed that the Affordable Care Act is Constitutional and should be upheld, but a majority also agreed that this Court was not likely to do so.  The judges have been judged as ideological and partisan hacks.

It matters a great deal to a great many people if they destroy health care reform on Thursday.  But even if they don't, it doesn't much matter to their long game.  They can even lose to an incumbent Democratic President, knowing that they can outspend anybody, and keep the bad demographics from voting just enough to never lose the White House again.   And it will take a lot for them to lose Congress and state legislatures, even with the very low approval ratings and the extreme measures they've pushed through.  They're establishing a feudal state in Michigan, and it's not a national scandal, it's not even a blip.

Demography may be destiny in the long run politically, but this Court may well have those 5 votes for a long time, too.  It's going to make the very difficult future unnecessarily more painful for all but a very few.

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