Friday, June 29, 2007

The Court of Least Resort

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious but for the moment chalk one up for the Right, we have a very conservative Supreme Court.  Iraq and our foreign policy remains a catastrophe, but we will be living with this Bush legacy for many years to come.  I do say for the moment because we have had examples of justices who, over time, changed sides and dramatically so.  Once conservatives Hugo Black and of course Harry Blackman, the author of Roe, surprised us.  But as we watch decision after decision handed down, one 5-4 ruling after another, that the clock is being turned back case-by-case is indisputable.  Of course this new majority isn’t made up of “judicial activists”, so at least we can rest easy in that regard.

Michelle Goldberg, whose book Kingdom Coming I referenced in a recent post, suggests that we can’t look at the courts these days to redress infringements on civil and privacy rights or the separation of church and state.  We’ll have to rely more heavily our legislatures and on the executive branch of government both on the local and national level.  That means we have win elections.  Perhaps we only now are seeing the damage five conservative justices can do, but we don’t have to be reminded of what happens when the other branches of government fall into the hands of rightist ideologues.  We can’t appoint judges, but we sure can determine who sits in the House, Senate and on Pennsylvania Avenue.  And forget about mandates. The Bush v. Gore outcome, a harbinger of things to come, showed us how powerful the office of President can be, elected or, in that case, appointed.  Getting the office is what it’s all about, and getting real majorities on the Hill and equally important in the State legislatures has never been more essential.

Hilary Clinton remains the presumptive front-runner, and I would say for the moment, already anointed by the press.  They’re opining on how strong she is, how well informed abd what leadership skills she brings to the table.  All of that may be true and her being a woman still counts for a lot in a time we still have the most unequal representation.  But voters still don’t think she’s likable and that could be an Achilles heal.  Bush didn’t hold a candle to either Gore or Kerry intellectually or otherwise, but our fellow Americans just liked him better.  Likeability got him through and put us in mortal danger.  We may not be happy that our leader is selected in that way, but with few exceptions it’s probably always been the case.   A dour Hoover lost to the Happy Warrior, a seemingly equally humorless Carter lost to the Gipper and a stiff patrician named Bush lost to the man from Hope, replayed in reverse when the faux country bumpkin knocked off the veteran in pin stripes from Massachusetts.

Any way, front-runner at this stage of the game doesn’t mean winner.  Remember the inevitable Howard Dean?  Moreover, I do think that you can be likable and still have substance, as some of those past likable winners certainly demonstrated.  The Democrats have a remarkably strong field (finally) and the party is both energized and hopefully will be united as never before.  I’m worried about Mayor Bigbucks who could be a spoiler, but hopefully he won’t find the waters that inviting when he sticks his billion dollar toe in for real.  I continue to support Barck Obama and get the sense the early polls belie his real strength or potential, but only time will tell.  Whatever the case, if you’ve been complacent about the Presidential race and equally about the Congressional and state contests ahead or the stakes involved, take a look at the last few news releases from the Roberts Court.  If that doesn’t keep you up at night, you need to drink some strong coffee before retiring so it will.

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