FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Supreme Court is an UnDemocratic Mess

The Supreme Court is a real piece of work. Over the last few days it’s been popping off far-right proclamations like a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. Except this uncle gets to make the rules in your house, and he can stay there until he dies.

Over about 48 hours, the nation’s highest court gutted the ability of America’s public employee unions to fundraise. It ruled that a president can freely apply his well-documented anti-Muslim bigotry to U.S. immigration policy, as long as he says that’s not what he’s doing. And it upheld deeply gerrymandered congressional maps in North Carolina and Texas, which lower courts ruled were blatantly designed to make the votes of poor people and people of color count for less.

These decisions weren’t without their dissenters — Justice Sonia Sotomayor in particular delivered fiery rebukes to the Muslim ban and gerrymandering decisions. But each one was decided by a rigid 5-4 vote, with the court’s right-wing majority carrying the day.

Please recall how this majority came to be.

When the last court seat opened up in early 2016, President Obama appointed the boringly centrist judge Merrick Garland. But the GOP-controlled Senate refused to seat him, or even to hold a single hearing. This was an almost unprecedented obstruction.

Instead, they held the seat open till they had a Republican president, who appointed the hardline conservative Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Republicans then changed the chamber’s rules so Gorsuch could be seated without the votes needed to clear a filibuster. That gave them the fifth vote they needed to disenfranchise voters, gut unions, religiously discriminate, and god knows what else.

And it’s more maddening than even that.

According to Think Progress, the senators who opposed Gorsuch represented 53 percent of Americans, but our arcane constitution gives much greater weight to less populous (and more conservative) states. And, remember, Gorsuch was appointed by a president who got nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, but won thanks to the same lopsided malapportionment that also gives us the Electoral College.

Gorsuch, appointed by a minority president and confirmed by representatives of a minority of Americans, now gets to slur offensive proclamations at our tables for life. A similar pattern seems likely to play out following the retirement of justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom the president will no-doubt name a hard-right successor.

The malapportionment will only get worse as progressive voters — and an ever larger share of the U.S. population — cluster in the bigger states underrepresented by our system. Meanwhile, lawmakers will continue drawing maps amplifying their own advantage and passing laws suppressing the votes of everyone else, with the likely backing of a Supreme Court even more conservative than it is now.

Under these conditions, electoral politics can seem hopeless. But they don’t have to be.

For instance, organizers in Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah are pushing ballot initiativesto put map drawing in non-partisan hands. Similar measures have already succeeded in California and Arizona. Others are being considered by lawmakers in states like Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly backed a requirement to get bipartisan buy-in on any new maps.

Grassroots mobilizations like the Poor People’s Campaign, meanwhile, are looking into mass voter registration drives as one way to push back against voter suppression. And election results like socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning primary victory over veteran establishment Democrat Joe Crowley point to a vibrant battle of ideas that defies our sclerotic voting system.

Can movements like these swing more elections? Maybe — it’s a steep climb. But more importantly, they’re building a strong base of Americans who aren’t going to put up with a system that leaves their drunk uncle to hold court forever.

More articles by:

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail