Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Of Roberts' Ruling and the New Order

Two things happened last week that bode well for the U.S. economy and the chances for the less than wealthy to make a little economic progress.  First was the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  Had it been wounded or destroyed, the economic turmoil would have been immediate, injecting uncertainty (especially in the healthcare sector) into a fragile recovery.  Keeping it on track will benefit the economy--not to mention most Americans-- in the long run in a variety of ways.  The second event (in time) was the European Union deal that makes major economic turmoil in Europe less likely, at least in the short term.  Such turmoil would have immediately stifled U.S. growth and could have nudged the economy back into official recession.

There's been a lot of noise in Washington about the ACA ruling.  Predictably much of it is scandalously inaccurate, both in terms of the ruling and the facts of the law.  Predictably much of it is nervous and inflated political guessing.  A number of polls taken since the ruling on Thursday have concluded various things, but perhaps the most salient number is that almost half of respondents in one poll hadn't even heard of the ruling at all.

And all too predictably, some of the noise was scary.  The ruling upheld the law by a final 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice Roberts casting the deciding vote for the majority.  This fact sent the Rabid Right into fits, and Roberts--an erstwhile reliable ally--was castigated in the usual extreme terms as a traitor to the cause.

Then a CBS report, summarized here, made news first of all because it broke the Supreme's usual leakproof silence, indicating that high level clerks or actual Justices did the leaking (my money is on a "conservative" Justice or two, or at least a clerk acting on direct instructions from a Justice.)  It also made news for its assertion that Roberts initially sided with the conservatives in nullifying the law, but made a late switch.

The initial reaction to the article was divided between those expressing skepticism on this point, and general agreement with the implications: that the "conservatives" on this Court are indeed political before they are constitutional judges.  So this decision, as beneficial as it is, may well be the exception that proves the rule.

Though one of the CBS report's points has been questioned in terms of the sequence of the various opinions being written, it suggests that Anthony Kennedy (previously believed to be a swing vote) is strongly ideological, and that he and the other "conservatives" were so upset with Roberts' decision that they ignored his legal points in their opinions--that they essentially dissed him.  In other words, they acted exactly as the ideological Rabid Right are acting now. 

Congressional Republicans are busily misinterpreting the basis for Roberts' decision, and then lying about it.  All of this is further evidence that as the GOP becomes the apparatus of the Rabid Right, it is ceasing to be a political party in the American sense, and more like the Communist Party in the Soviet bloc--striving for one party rule in the Soviet sense: insisting on ideological purity internally, and seeking to dominate and deny rights and legitimacy to any external group.  The pattern of the GOP moving in that direction is pretty clear.  

So it isn't just that the Court is engaged in partisan politics over interpretation of the law, which is already a failing.  And it isn't even that they are ideological, which further distorts their judgments and renders the R5 injudicious and dangerous.  It is that their ideology is as dogmatic as if revealed by their God, in aid of a political party bent on as totalitarian a New Order as the U.S. has ever seen.   If indeed the ACA ruling was the exception that proves the rule (which recent history as well as a lot of evidence from within the opinions convinces me is likely) maybe even because there are a few shreds of integrity left, or if Roberts' example injects some sobriety about the Court's real responsibilities, will be known only by future decisions.  Meanwhile, this election becomes in part a referendum on the future of American democracy. 

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