Supreme Court was once trusted

Published 9:45 am Friday, April 20, 2012

According to Gallup polling, the U.S. Supreme Court has averaged a public approval rating of approximately 60 percent over the past 12 years, the period since Bush v. Gore.

Gallup currently reports 46 percent approve of the courts’ actions and 40 percent disapprove, a decrease of 15 percent in approval over the last two years, and the lowest approval rating since 1976.

This rating drop follows the Citizens United decision that granted corporations and unions personhood rights to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. That decision is disapproved of by 60 percent of Americans.

Email newsletter signup

But Citizens was only one of many activist decisions by a court claiming its majority of conservative justices to be dedicated to non-activist rulings. Apparently the application of the word “activist” for these justices is actually defined by their disagreement with outcomes.

If precedent is ignored, as it was in Citizens, then activism is just fine when the 5-4 vote advances the political agenda of the American Right. Activism only occurs when decisions are not politically matched to the conservative justices’ views.

Since Bush v. Gore, where five Republican justices elected a Republican president, we have had Citizens United and, more recently, the ruling that strip searches are good police policy for jaywalkers as identical to murderers. There have been many other far-right rulings over the last decade by this majority, led by the ever-intolerant Scalia and followed by the silent, but radical, Thomas. Alito, their newest pal, joined the court to build on its “Big Business, Big Government” support and to turn the Constitution away from the protection of individual rights.

Chief Justice Roberts adds to the court a willingness, contrary to his confirmation assertions, to ignore precedent altogether (see Citizens). Roberts also indicated in his confirmation hearings his conviction that the court should make smaller, focused rulings rather than larger, social re-constructions.

Yet in Citizens, Roberts ignored his own deeply held views to create a new form of American politics where money equals the power to elect.

Finally, Justice Kennedy lands his conservatism in almost every instance, making the majority more dominant in 5-4 decisions than any majority since the 1930s.

And now these five, the Radical Right of political appointees with lifetime security, are poised to consider adding yet another 5-4 decision to their list of political decisions with an Affordable Care Act’s partial or complete reversal.

A January 2012 Kaiser Foundation poll found that 75 percent of Americans now believe this court makes decisions not based upon an analysis of law, but upon their own ideological beliefs.

Given the recent history of this court, and considering the nature of questions posed by these justices in the ACA hearings, where their legal analysis seemed more closely attuned to right-wing talk radio hosts than jurisprudence, how can Americans hold any view other than these justices are deciding law based upon little more than their bias?

But there are consequences for actions, and should this court reverse a health care law passed by a Congressional majority, there will be consequences to America.

The first consequence will be to the Interstate Commerce Clause. If ACA does not qualify as interstate commerce when it represents 17 percent of the economy, what happens to Medicare and Social Security? How can payments for those programs be supported?

And the second consequence is what happens to health care policy in a nation where 50 million are uninsured and insurance tilts more and more to an economic basis, where the rich will have the world’s best health care and the majority will have little or no health care?

But the most significant consequence will be the reduction of the Supreme Court to little more than a gang of political extremists who might end up doing talk radio after hours, following Rush and Hannity with their diatribes on the evils of a social safety net.

One can only but recall a once trusted court.


Jim Crawford is retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.