The Supreme Court’s golden rule: Only Republican leaders have true power


Oh boy, do you remember the summer of 2021? At this point, we were inundated with zesty, hot takes about how the Supreme Court isn’t nearly as bad as Liberals feared. Well, here we are half a year away and this supposedly sane Supreme Court has just proved all its critics right. They’re a bunch of partisan hackers who ignore the simple letter of the law to undermine Democratic government and put Republicans in power.

Thursday’s decision to remove President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for private employers was certainly not the result of a good faith reading of the law. It wasn’t even an expression of any ideological opposition to the “administrative state,” as Steve Bannon and other authoritarian crackpots derisively call it. No, the only jurisprudence guiding the Republican-controlled Supreme Court — which sits on a whopping three people appointed by Donald Trump — is the belief that the only legitimate presidents are Republicans. We know this not only because of the bad faith of the decision itself, but also because we contrast it with the warm and fuzzy feelings the judges have about the president’s sweeping powers when Republicans are in charge.

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First of all, the decision itself is a joke. As legal expert Mark Joseph Stern of Slate wrote, “the unsigned majority opinion of the court is based on several dubious allegations” and, crucially, is “entirely independent of the plaintext of the statute”. The anti-mandatory argument was that since COVID-19 poses a general public health threat, it cannot be considered a workplace safety issue in its own right. But, as many people pointed out, the conservative justices don’t believe their own reasoning here, as evidenced by the fact that the Supreme Court building’s pandemic preparedness is warranted as a workplace safety issue.

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The hacking of this decision – so bad that none of the six Conservative justices who voted in favor of it were willing to endorse it – cannot be overstated.

As Vox legal expert Ian Millhiser joked on Twitter, the Supreme Court “thinks there’s a Let’s Go Brandon clause in the Constitution.”

The point here is just one thing: Republicans believe that prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic will help them politically. They are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives – mainly the lives of their own constituents – to serve this strategy. The Republicans who control the Supreme Court are, barring tenuous protestations, partisan hackers who shape their decisions based on what will help Republicans come to power.

To that end, the motives of the conservative judges are no different than those of the QAnon Shaman and the other donkeys who stormed the Capitol to overthrow the election last year. They all flatly reject the right of duly elected Democrats to govern. Judges may hide this anti-democratic sentiment behind faux-legalese and Supreme Court subterfuges in disguise, while QAnoners hide it behind lurid talk about cannibalistic pedophiles and stolen elections. But the underlying idea is the same: Only Republicans have a legitimate claim to power.

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As Osita Nwanevu wrote in The New York Times earlier this month, Republicans view the Constitution “as an eternal covenant that keeps power in its rightful hands” and don’t care much about the actual text, which says otherwise. So they fight to keep actual history out of schools and to spread fake stories that are turning the US into a theocratic Christian state rather than a secular democracy. This is why Trump’s descriptions of voters of color as “cheaters” make so much sense to them — not because they believe these voters are actually casting illegal votes, but because they don’t see the right to vote for non-whites as legitimate in the first place.

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And to contradict Salon’s Heather “Digby” Parton a bit, this verdict isn’t even about something as lofty as ideological opposition to the “administrative state.” Somehow the Supreme Court didn’t really have a problem with Trump indeed over the top when it came to his use of executive power. They have repeatedly bent over backwards to protect Trump’s decisions that violate the Constitution or the limits of his power, even as they seek to quash Biden’s secular use of power, which adheres closely to the letter of the law. Mark Joseph Stern pointed this out on Twitter:

The court either sanctioned, or at least refused to limit, a large number of Trump’s actual excesses of executive power. In violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause, the court upheld Trump’s travel ban, which was clearly aimed at preventing Muslims from entering the country. Not only have they upheld Trump’s “stay in Mexico” policy, which contradicts international law regarding the rights of political refugees, but they have, with typically sloppy reasoning, forced the Biden administration to continue to conform to Trump’s rules. They endorsed Trump’s clearly illegal reappropriation of defense spending funds to begin building his border wall.

Even in cases where they knew there was no way to legally justify Trump’s abuse of executive power, they still supported him, going slow and asking them to overrule his illegal actions. For example, Trump’s “gag rule,” which prevented clinics that receive federal funds from even mentioning abortion to patients, clearly violated the First Amendment. But instead of throwing it out, the court was reluctant to issue a ruling, forcing clinics like Planned Parenthood to drastically reduce benefits until Biden stepped in and ended the policy.

This naked partisanship does not only affect Trump. As CNN legal editor Steve Vladeck pointed out, Republicans were more than sympathetic to George W. Bush’s rise to power when it came to his desire to avoid constitutional restrictions on his presidential right to go to war.

In all of this, there is no discernible consistency in jurisprudence or legal ideology. It’s just an apparent belief that guides the court’s decisions: Only Republicans are legitimate leaders.

This partisan agenda is why the Supreme Court has thrown out perfectly good laws like the Voting Rights Act or campaign finance transparency laws. Bush v. Gore displayed this partisan hacking even before the appointment of the current list of Republican hackers to the country’s highest bank. Everything revolves around this idea that the rights and will of voters are illegitimate — when those voters choose Democrats instead of Republicans as their leaders. Don’t be fooled by the chic robes. When it comes to their views on right and might, the Republicans who control the Supreme Court might as well don an antler and face paint as they run through the halls of the Capitol screaming nonsense like “Stop the Steal!”


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