Rethinking America

How Republicans Rule the US via the Supreme Court

Justice Kennedy’s retirement will only worsen the trend of the U.S. Supreme Court serving as a political wing of the Republican Party.

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Takeaways


  • Republicans haven't won the popular vote in six of the last seven US presidential elections. To make up for that, the GOP is focused on expanding its control of the courts.
  • Justice Kennedy’s retirement will only worsen the trend of the US Supreme Court serving as a political wing of the Republican Party.
  • Republicans are taking measures to establish a plutocracy that is intended to supplant democracy.
  • According to modern Republican orthodoxy, money and established power should win elections.

Republicans haven’t won the popular vote in six of the last seven U.S. presidential elections. To make up for that deficiency as best it can, the GOP is keenly focused on expanding its control of the courts.

Such control is critical to maintaining political power. The array of tools includes some very effective, but completely un-democratic tools such as the gerrymandering of electoral districts, voter suppression measures, as well as no real restraints on financial contributions to political campaigns.

The upcoming departure of Justice Kennedy from the U.S. Supreme Court, paired with the expected appointment of a Trump loyalist, will only make the trend toward undemocratic controls on fair elections more pronounced.

Democracy, votes and the people

Along the way, the Republicans create all sorts of scare crows. A recent remark by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is revealing in that context.

After a surprising victory in a Democratic Party primary race for a Congressional seat in New York, McConnell warned against turning the United States into a “European socialist country.”

All that because the winning candidate was a Latina woman, who with her background is far more representative of the U.S. population at large than most members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The real issue is that McConnell and Republican colleagues, unable to win fair elections, cannot tolerate democracy. He and his partisans reject European democratic fair voting- processes and elections.

Almighty dollars

“I will always be well financed, and I’ll be well financed early,” stated McConnell as far back as in his first race in 1977. McConnell, now the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, has been instrumental in injecting powerful money in politics.

This has involved an active use of litigation in courts to reverse established campaign finance laws, most notably in the infamous Citizens United case (2010) which opened the way for unlimited money in U.S. politics.

It is hard to argue against the notions that Republicans are taking measures to establish a plutocracy that is intended to supplant democracy.

Democracy for the powerful

Consider three recent cases weakening the Voting Rights Act, upholding race-based gerrymandering and allowing voter-suppression, all decided 5-4 along party lines.

In Abbott v. Perez, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower-court finding that the State of Texas had drawn U.S. and State congressional districts in a manner that constricted communities, specifically racial minorities and democrats, diminishing their influence in electing seats proportionally to the population.

The conservative justices on the court argued that the state laws should be interpreted as “good faith.” The case also upheld restrictive Voter ID laws that prevent students and others from voting.

But this ruling was only possible after an earlier case, Shelby County v. Holder, in which the U.S. Supreme Court undid a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had provided federal oversight over areas with historically entrenched racism.

A final example of Supreme Court-sanctioned constrictions of democracy can be seen in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.

The particular case involved legislation in Ohio, which established a process for removing voters, who had not voted in previous elections, or demonstrated that they resided at the same address in Ohio, from polls. This measure forces those who do not respond to re-register.

Conservative Justices argued that the proposed legislation did not violate the National Registration Act or the Help America Vote Act. Liberal Justices argue that the legislation is a new effort among many recent ones in voter-suppression.

Discriminating against minorities

Other states across the United States have already implemented voter ID laws that discriminate against minorities. They have also blocked early voting and made out-of-state as well as vote-by-mail extremely difficult.

Other efforts restrict efforts at registering new voters and set up regulations limiting the time and place voter-registration locations may be open.

According to modern Republican orthodoxy, of which McConnell is largely the architect, money and established power should win elections. That is evidently the only way how the Republican Party can convert its electoral weaknesses at the ballot box into a winning hand.

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About Carl Bindenagel

Carl Bindenagel is a policy analyst and writer on social justice and social policy.

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