Thoughts on the Supreme Court and US politics lately
It’s been silent on icanthascheezburger for awhile now, but after this week it feels necessary to speak a little bit about the state of political affairs in the US, because they are troubling.
Naturally, a series of SCOTUS decisions are at the top of my mind, and this week’s decisions were especially sad to hear, most of which was the widely anticipated overturning of Roe and Casey.
But it isn’t just about Roe and Casey, or specifically about abortion rights (which, for the record, icanthascheezburger has consistently been a staunch supporter of; Roe was a baseline and Americans deserve far more robust access to abortion than even under Roe). It is about a level of extremism from a far-right majority of justices that is troubling.
The legal reasonings that are leading to recent SCOTUS decisions involve performing levels of mental gymnastics that make no sense, and are wildly full of hypocrisy. Clarence Thomas recently stated that in light of the overturning of Roe, other watershed legal decisions should also be revisited on the same basis, such as Obergefell (which asserted the constitutional right to marrying someone of the same sex), yet by Clarence Thomas’s own same reasoning, Loving should also be overturned, yet he was silent on that, as it would affect his own marriage.
If you’re interested in hearing from an actual legal scholar about this trend of “originalism” used by conservative justices, constitutional law professor Elizabeth Joh discussed this recently in an episode of her podcast in the context of 2nd Amendment rights.
In a functioning democracy there would be cause for optimism, especially given how low Americans’ confidence is in the Supreme Court right now. The branches of government are designed to check each other’s power, and at the moment that responsibility falls on Democrats, but they seem to lack the will to do anything. Adding more justices to the courts is an option. Adding term limits for justices is an option. Adding more pathways to curb corrupt or illegal behavior on the part of justices is an option, and Democrats seem uninterested in any of those things.
Democrats also seem uninterested even in legislative remedies to SCOTUS’s rulings. Congress could codify Roe (in fact, it was one of Obama’s campaign promises, then he decided it wasn’t a priority once he was in office and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress). Congress could do more to strengthen agency powers to protect public health by explicitly empowering agencies to protect against infectious airborne-spread diseases like COVID by enforcing wearing of masks in the workplace or during air travel.
And they don’t.
Instead we get lukewarm platitudes and vague calls to keep voting. For now, Democrats’ strategy seems to be to be content to let Republicans become increasingly extremist and hellbent on destroying beloved institutions, and pushing Americans to pick mediocre Democratic candidates because it minimizes harm (and in the case of the 2020 election, failing to even do that).
Instead Democrats will let heartbreaking events go by and use them as nothing more than a segue into a fundraising email seeing if you could just kick in $50.
As Republicans gear up with increasing attacks on LGBT people, Hillary Clinton insists that it’s a distraction for Democrats to get caught up in all that, suggesting there are bigger fish to fry. What bigger fish are there to fry than to ensure the right for people to exist?
Lest I just start ranting, I do believe that we’ll come out of a lot of this. We eventually will get a less extremist Supreme Court and when we do, it will likely overturn a lot of these bad decisions. I worry about how many more bad decisions America needs to endure until then.
Democrats need to change their strategy. We need to get rid of the old guard that continues to act like Republicans are their temporarily misguided friends across the aisle and replace them with people who understand that they are fighting a party of cynical extremists that are happy to destroy democratic principles to get what they want, and act accordingly. Or if we wait long enough, the old guard will die out and younger generations can finally get a chance to represent Americans for once.
Best case scenario, Democrats change course, they grow their support, and we can make progress fast. Decent case scenario, Democrats are slow to adapt, but Americans now see how consequential presidential elections are with regard to the long term consequences, and we get on track to building a Supreme Court composed of people who are more representative of American values and who will interpret the Constitution more sensibly.
Worst case scenario, no one learns any lessons. Democrats try the same shit and hope that “at least I’m not the Republican, vote for me” continues to win them elections, Americans decide “no, not electing Democrats because you’re ineffective and don’t deserve power,” and despite a lack of majority support and despite the fact that they aren’t doing what the majority of Americans agree with, our government somehow keeps slipping further and further right-wing, destroying institutions until America becomes a country characterized entirely by inequality, concentration of power, and extremist Christian theocracy.