Saturday, July 21, 2012


The Constitution of the United States makes the Supreme Court of the United States the only one of three branches of the federal government which is not democratic. Its nine members are not elected, but nominated, and usually approved by the Senate. Nor is it demographically representative of the people. Until recently, its justices were white men; today, it has one black man and three women, one of whom is Hispanic. Curiously, it has no Protestants though they constitute a majority of the population; instead, it has six Catholics and three Jews. The majority in the 5-4 decisions of the Roberts Court are all Catholics.

Analyses of the decisions of the Roberts Court overwhelming favor private corporations over the government, then state government over the federal government, then state or federal governments over individuals. The recent decision in the Affordable Care Act case is a possible exception proving the rule (maybe, depending how the denial of the applicability of the commerce clause in this case plays out in future cases).

Meanwhile, the members of the Supreme Court operate without any restrictions on their public or private behavior; no code of ethics restricts their associations or limits their conduct which might indicate the fact or the appearance of improper conduct. Thus, Associate Justice Anton Scalia accepted an invitation from Vice President Dick Cheney to go hunting, denied that their friendship would influence him in any matter before the Supreme Court, and was indignant that anyone would imagine him capable of susceptibility to the corrupting influence of friendship. Other conservative justices and he have attended expense-paid trips to lavish resorts for conferences sponsored by business or right-wing organizations, but deny any impropriety or any appearance of it (though the appearance is in the eye of beholder, not in the eye of the beheld). I do not trust this right-wing bloc on the Court to avoid impropriety, the appearance thereof, or politics uber alles.

One case and one case alone indicates the pro-corporatist political activism of this five-man, Catholic majority: Citizens United. Recent, pre-Obama legislation placing some restrictions on campaign contributions have reflected the wishes of a majority of Americans to control money in elections. This Supreme Court decision now equating money with speech and thereby giving money Constitutional protection under the First Amendment establishes as the law of the land the old, cynical adage that “money talks.” Everyone knows that the one-person-one-vote principle now gives way to another: big bucks matter more than small change.

My conspiracy theory is that the 2012 election will be, if the 2008 election was not, the last democratic national election involving a presidential contest. If unlimited funding, voter disenfranchisement, and voter intimidation succeed in winning one-party control of the White House and Congress, not to mention more governorships and state legislatures, Republicans will improve, expand, and intensify the means of this success in future elections. Corporate and fat-cat contributions to Republican candidate coffers will become political tithing supporting economic interests and thus a cost of doing business.

Two results are readily foreseeable. One, a Republican President and a Republican-controlled Senate will be able to appoint more Supreme Court justices who view their job more politically than judicially, and who will thereby reinforce Republican rule and corporate interests. Two, an increasingly dominant Republican Party fueled by its Tea Party caucus at federal and state levels will have a good chance of proposing and approving Constitutional amendments which “take the country back” to a minority-based government no longer reflecting the “consent of the governed,” but controlled by fundamentalist ideologues, the white, and, most influentially, the wealthy. Thus, the Supreme Court under institution-loving, individual-loathing conservatives will effect the transition from democracy to oligarchy.

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