Jim Hightower: In the Roberts court, the people shall be damned | columnists


Today’s six-person supermajority of the Supreme Court has abandoned any pretense of being an impartial moral force for blind justice. Instead, the GOP’s small network of corporations and right-wing activists has carefully fabricated and armed the court as its own political oligarchy. In just a few short decades, these anti-democracy zealots, backed by a few billionaires, have progressively imposed on America an extremist political agenda they failed to win at the ballot box.

Their “Eureka!” moment — the startling development that opened the eyes of wealthy elites and ideologues to the raw power they could seize by politicizing the judiciary — was the illegitimate Bush v Gore verdict of the Supreme Court. In December 2000, this five-member GOP majority abruptly crashed the Florida presidential vote count and stormed over both democracy and the adequacy of the judiciary to install George W. in the White House. Horrified, dissenting judge John Paul Stevens mocked the five, pointing out that while their fabricated decision didn’t actually determine whether Bush or Gore won, it made the loser “clearly clear: It’s the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial upholder of the rule of law.”

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One of those who helped steer the court’s overt political power play over the Florida vote was an obscure corporate attorney who has long been an aggressive behind-the-scenes Republican monkey wrench pushing to keep voting from people of color, the poor and others restrict Democratic constituencies: John Roberts. Shortly thereafter – surprise! – Bush elevated Roberts to a senior federal judge and only two years later promoted him to America’s ultimate judicial position of power, Chief Justice of the Supremes.

From this lofty perch, Roberts has orchestrated an extensive political list for the court, handpicking cases created and advanced by far-right interests. Then he manipulated precedent and procedure to make intricate decisions that enforce plutocratic, autocratic, and theocratic rule over the democratic rights and aspirations of the American people.

To date, Chief Justice John Roberts has cobbled together slim, all-Republican majorities to pass more than 80 blatantly partisan rulings and fabricate laws that we, the people, never voted for and do not support.

It is bizarre that the Supreme Court, the least democratic branch of government, should pretend to speak on behalf of the people. Even as their right-wing core churns out an unprecedented level of partisan judgments that we, the people, clearly do not want – and will not support. Take abortion rights, for example, which the court — now freshly packed with former President Donald Trump’s trio of Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — is likely to annul this year. If they do, it will be a costly “victory” for these politicians as they imperatively impose their own agenda over the overwhelming will of the people.

Helloooo, Your Honor: About six in 10 Americans have consistently and passionately affirmed that these deeply personal and emotional decisions belong to the women involved, not the unelected ideologues and political opportunists. A court so far removed from contact with the people marches without a guise of legitimacy, wasting its authority on being taken seriously, let alone obeyed.

This band of self-righteous judges has not only squeezed their reactionary social prejudices into the law passed by the court, but they have also sanctioned cases to establish corporate dominance over us and our environment. During Roberts’ tenure, the court sided with the US Chamber of Commerce (the main front group for US corporate giants) in a staggering 70% of cases! In fact, three members — Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas — are now among the five most pro-business judges of the past 75 years.

This aggressive corporatization and partisanship has propelled the Supremes to a new level of public consciousness – much to their chagrin. In a Quinnipiac poll last November, more than six in 10 Americans said they believe Supreme Court decisions are primarily motivated by politics rather than unbiased legal interpretations. Rather than instilling a measure of humility, however, the poor reviews have provoked embarrassing outbursts of judicial anger and irritation. Alito, for example, whined loudly last year that critics were making “unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution.” Likewise, Barrett was so stung that she felt it necessary to go public with a strained denial, asking the public to believe that “this court is not made up of a bunch of partisan hacks.”

Note to testy judges: if you don’t want to be called a partisan, stop being one. And, Brother Alito, it is not critics who harm the third branch “as an independent institution,” but your servile allegiance to corporate interests and your knee-jerk allegiance to extremist ideologues. You can wear the robe, but you cannot hide in it.

Populist author, speaker, and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing struggles of ordinary Americans against the rule of plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.


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