Republicans will probably be ruing today’s Supreme Court abortion decision

It’s not surprising that Roe v. Wade was formally overturned by our super conservative court today. That’s because the opinion was leaked back in May. It would have been surprising had it changed. Still, it’s shocking nonetheless.

I’m hardly the first pundit to point out that this is like a dog chasing a car and managing to catch the car. Giving the Republican base what they want has been a recurring theme for this court, constructed carefully over nearly fifty years of effort.

Just yesterday we got another 6-3 ruling from the court that invalidated lots of state laws that prohibited the public carry of firearms. We have such a law right here in Massachusetts. I am pissed. I moved to Massachusetts in part because the legislators here are sensible. Our state is one of the safest places in the country because of its gun laws.

But it’s going to be more Wild West in my state, thanks to the court. I live in the western part of the state, the part of the state that elected Scott Brown as our senator after Ted Kennedy died. This area is not exactly liberal but not exactly conservative either. Owning a firearm is more of a hassle here, but I’m certain there are enough Swamp Yankees (as we call them) around here to start openly carrying them. The rest of us will be up in arms, so to speak, the first time we saddle up next to one of these strangers at the bar at the local Applebees.

Today’s decision still allows abortions in states that choose to allow them. If you think this will satisfy the antiabortion crowd, you are incredibly naïve. This is part one of a larger plan to disallow abortions nationwide. It’s not that difficult. Republicans need a majority in both chambers and a control of the presidency. When the inevitable case is brought to the court to invalidate the law, don’t expect a 6-3 conservative court to overturn it.

But this is really part of a much larger agenda to impose minority values on the majority of the people. Justice Thomas was pretty open about his agenda. In his opinion, he states the court should look at reversing all sorts of precedents, like its gay marriage ruling. Expect states to also take aim at the court’s decision in the 1960s invalidating state birth control laws. In short, if nothing changes, we’re moving pretty quickly toward A Handmaid’s Tale world.

All this plus gerrymandering, voter suppression and outright corruption of the electoral process to allow states to send electors at variance with the popular vote of the state and you have all the trappings of permanent minority rule and, essentially, authoritarianism. That’s really what this is all about.

Lack of control drives Republicans batty. They can only feel comfortable if everyone follows rules they set. This gives privileges to those they like (like the gun ruling) while taking it away from those they don’t like (poor pregnant women and minorities.) If you are skeptical, try to find one state with antiabortion laws that also attempts to feed the babies born that would otherwise be aborted. (Hint: none exist. In fact, generally these states keep reducing what measly subsidies exist for poor people.)

The problem is that Republicans think people will be sheep. People aren’t sheep. When abortion was last outlawed, those with the means got them anyhow. Lots of women who couldn’t still managed to get them through unofficial networks while lots of them died attempting their own abortions too.

Moreover, women will remember when abortion was safe, legal and local. They will resent that their reproductive choices were taken away from them. Add in hoped for additional persecution against the LGBTQIA+ community, much of it well underway, and they are feeding rebellion against them and driving demand for the liberal values they so obviously abhor. Also, they drive civil insurrection, which rather than controls society simply adds to its instability.

The whole point of a democratic government is to ensure that government represents the will of the people. Because our system of government gave extraordinary power to southern and rural states, it was lopsided from the beginning. Additional tactics like filibuster rules in the Senate make the problem far worse. Authoritarian governments rarely last long but they are great at causing civil unrest, insurrection and death. Democratic governments are supposed to engender listening and compromise, which engenders trust in government. Only 36% of Americans trust our Supreme Court to act impartially. Approval of Congress is at a low 20%.

Democrats would be wise to run on a new Contract with America in the coming midterms. This badly timed ruling on abortion gives them plenty of fodder to convince the public. There will be plenty of news stories about the ill effects of today’s rulings by then. The contract should include a promise to end filibuster rules at least for any proposal to guarantee abortion rights. What’s more important than that though is to reform the Supreme Court.

I’ve long argued for packing the Supreme Court. Restoring its balance so that it is more representative of the people, rather than disproportionately representative of our most extreme conservatives, is the only real solution to the hellscape Republicans and our super conservative Supreme Court seem anxious to unleash on us.

We need truly impartial justices

Ugh! This is an appropriate word to describe yesterday’s dueling testimonies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, first by Christine Blasey Ford then by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Yesterday will seem painfully familiar to those of us who remember Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. Hill claimed that he sexually harassed her when he was in charge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Yesterday’s dueling testimonies though were a lot worse. While Anita Hill gave convincing testimony, Blasey Ford gave more convincing and far more damaging testimony. Later, Kavanaugh embarrassed himself by blaming Democrats and various other shadowy boogeymen, or maybe that was boogey-women, for what he said were wholly incorrect allegations. He even cried. He egregiously displayed the exact lack of judicial temperament, sobriety and impartiality that we should expect from a justice.

Of course that probably won’t derail his confirmation, just as Anita Hill’s merely postponed Clarence Thomas’s. Trump sees Kavanaugh’s fighting as a good thing. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee simply want to move his nomination forward, which they did today, when the obvious thing to do was to dig further. Later today, perhaps due to a heated encounter with two women, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake convinced the Senate to wait a week before voting on his final confirmation so the FBI can conduct a quick investigation on these many allegations. That’s a small sign of progress, but one that probably won’t keep him off the Supreme Court.

In Clarence Thomas’s case, there was just one witness’s testimony. While lurid, it was not exactly part of a pattern. That’s not the case with Kavanaugh. Others have come forward and want to testify against him. One even signed a sworn affidavit that Kavanaugh was one of many men waiting outside a room where an inebriated and incapacitated woman was ravaged by many men when he was in college. Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge apparently liked those boozy times with Brett so much he wrote a book about it. For Kavanaugh to claim as he did yesterday that his drinking was never to excess is just laughable and arguably perjury, given so many people who were there who watched his behavior first hand and will testify otherwise.

You would think that no one would be nominated if they could not demonstrate not just sobriety, but a commitment to impartially interpreting the law. Impartiality would include finding for the defendant or plaintiff even if it contradicted your political leanings. There’s little of this in Kavanaugh’s record. He was picked because he demonstrated a sustained lack of impartiality, coming down repeatedly in a predictably conservative direction. Kavanaugh would not be the first; this tendency applies to nominees from both sides of the aisles. Arguably, Kavanaugh’s nomination is the most egregious case we’ve seen in living memory, sans Robert Bork’s nomination that was wisely rejected in 1987.

The Senate is more inclined to vote for impartial justices when the court’s liberal or conservative balance is not an issue. Curiously, Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland was precisely this sort of nominee, and he won bipartisan praise. Senate Republicans though simply refused to hold hearings. Given Justice Kennedy’s tendency to straddle both sides of the court, more justices like him on the court are desperately needed. Ideally the entire court would be truly nonpartisan. No president should dare nominate someone who didn’t have a history of balanced rulings.

Those days are thirty or more years in our past. It doesn’t look like they will be coming back, which is tragic. Yet this is exactly what we need from a functional Supreme Court. Justices that fairly uphold the law, even if these laws are perceived as unfair, encourages Congress to update these laws. It’s not the fault of those nominated to or serving on the bench, though. It’s the fault of presidents who nominate people without these sorts of sterling qualifications.

President Obama did a fair job of providing nominees like this, and Garland was probably his best pick in this vein. Kavanaugh’s nomination proves that Trump doesn’t care about the Supreme Court’s vital role to impartially render justice.

All we can do is hope that our next president will put the nation’s need for fair and honest jurisprudence first. For a change, maybe we should vote for a candidate that pledges to do this, so we can have a meaningful and useful justice system again. It’s quite clear that without it our nation is deeply disordered. Voters must do their part to restore a truly impartial judiciary.

Republicans are being politically stupid on the Kavanaugh nomination

It used to be that Republicans had something of a reputation for being politically astute. For example, they spent more than thirty years building their brand and mucking up the machinery of government to disproportionately favor them. They perfected gerrymandering, gerrymandered a Supreme Court to allow unlimited campaign contributions through mysterious PACs and overturn key parts of the Voting Rights Act, which quickly resulted in major voter disenfranchisement.

Their “take no prisoners” strategy lately though has looked increasingly desperate. After Justice Anton Scalia’s death, they refused to even given President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, because a presidential election was only 200 plus days away. Of course once Trump was president, they had no issues expediting the hearings for our new Justice Neil Gorsuch. More recently it was the swing justice, Justice Kennedy that retired. Trump took only a couple of weeks to nominate Brett Kavanaugh. His hearings were slowed down only a little because senators wanted to take summer vacation. Of course shortly after Labor Day his hearing started in earnest, feeling very much like a kangaroo court, the “court” in this case being the U.S. Senate. There was no time to do things like review his voluminous records working for Ken Starr or George W. Bush. Mitch McConnell wants that conservative court ASAP so screw that.

Now we have accusations from a California professor, Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh participated in a sexual assault against her when Kavanaugh was 17 and she was 15. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that makes this accusation credible, including a wishy-washy response from Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice (“no memory”), 2012 notes from Blasey Ford’s therapist, remembrances of fellow students at the time on incidents like this, yearbook entries of Kavanaugh that suggested he drank a lot of beer and occasional speeches by Kavanaugh (some recent) where he was quoted as saying what happened at his exclusive prep school stayed there. It doesn’t help Kavanaugh that he lied repeatedly at his confirmation hearing, as well as previous confirmation hearings. These lies don’t seem to bother Republicans though. Apparently anything is excusable to get that last conservative justice on the Court.

Republicans are becoming Icarus flying too close to the sun. Supposedly their rationalization for not throwing in the towel on his nomination is that it will disappoint their base and maybe depress their voting in the upcoming midterms. They realize their clock is ticking at that come November 7 they may lose control of Congress.

Later if more credible accusations come forward, I guess they figure they won’t have to pay a political price. They also apparently think they won’t pay a political price by giving Blasey Ford a perfunctory hearing and then voting Kavanaugh in, as if their blithe dismissal of these allegations won’t cause uproar against them from the many women out there who have endured similar incidents.

In truth there is plenty of time to give Kavanaugh a quick heave ho and put someone of a similar ilk on the court. The only thing that distinguishes Kavanaugh from the list of conservative jurists provided by the Federalist Society is that he most likely to give Trump a pass if cases of Trump’s malfeasance come before the court. It’s pretty unlikely though that any other pick will have potential sexual assault as baggage. It’s unlikely that a new nominee could be confirmed before the midterms, but new senators won’t take office until January. You would think that given their concern over Obama’s nominee that they would defer a vote until the new Senate is seated and can weigh in. Ha! Of course not! They would push this through during a lame duck session and they would not work up any sweat garnering the votes either.

Instead, they are doing the stupid thing. They are inflaming millions of female voters, as well as many of us male voters further appalled by their disinterest in doing any meaningful due diligence before putting someone on the court for a lifetime appointment. They are setting themselves up not just for a huge blowback in November, but further blowback down the line if further allegations come up.

The price for dumping Kavanaugh is a short-term blowback that will soon be forgotten when a new nominee is chosen. Knowing that this nominee will have a cleaner record than Kavanaugh’s, it’s likelier that Republican voters will feel a mixture of relief and greater enthusiasm. Moreover, they will make some amends for their 1991 confirmation of Clarence Thomas, tarred by sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill. These allegations against Kavanaugh though are much more serious than a case of sexual harassment.

I’m not sure where the sane Republican senators went, but hopefully there are enough of them out there to reject this nominee just because it is the saner thing for them to do. Right now though there is plenty of evidence that their political calculus is way off, and they are undercutting their own professed goals.