Political legacies are always fluid and best understood from the perspective of great distance. Sometimes policies that are reviled turn out to be the best possible option (see Harry Truman) and sometimes people who are deified turn out to be completely wrong (see Alan Greenspan). So it’s hard to say for sure what will ultimately turn out to be the most destructive part of the reign of George the Second. Invading a sovereign nation and turning the Arab world against us; crippling the economy through tax breaks for the wealthy; gutting environmental regulations and oversight… there are many possibilities. But perhaps the most lasting damage will come from his Supreme Court nominees.
Thus far, the Roberts court has done an impressive bit of damage in its short life. It has limited free speech in public schools (Morse v. Frederick); gutted the legacy of affirmative action (Meredith v. Jefferson County Board; Parents v. Seattle School District); limited abortion rights (Gonzales v. Carhart); and found unconstitutional an attempt to take corporate money out of the election process (Citizens United v. the FEC). That last bit of overturned legislation was authored by the notable liberal firebrand John McCain.
Yesterday, the Roberts Court found that a 28-year-old ban on owning handguns in the City of Chicago was unconstitutional. As a Chicago resident, I can tell you that the first thing this city needs is more guns… we already have the national murder rate locked up, but need some help in our run at the worldwide title. After all, we can’t let Rio beat us at everything.
The decision basically says that local government can’t prohibit the sales of any type of gun (funny… I thought conservative ideology was all about states’ rights… I guess not for this or deciding presidential elections). The Roberts Court obviously feels that the Second Amendment holds that gun ownership is an inalienable right. After all, that’s what it says. Oh, wait…
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Now, I’ve seen The Wire… at the same time, I’m not sure the Bloods and the Crips count as well regulated militias. Plus, the framers were talking about this:
It doesn’t matter, though… the only thing harder than reasoning with a conservative is shaming one. Which is why the Bush appointments are so vexing, and possibly more damaging than even Iraq. All of the decisions listed above were decided 5-4. Two of the five, including the Chief Justice that hands out assignments, were appointed by W. – John Roberts (Age 50) and Samuel Alito (Age 56). The other parts of the regular majority are Clarence Thomas (H.W. – Age 62), Antonin Scalia (Reagan – Age 74) and Anthony Kennedy (Reagan – Age 73). The minority is made up of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton – Age 77), Stephen Breyer (Clinton – Age 71), Sonia Sotomayor (Obama – Age 56) and possibly Elena Kagan (Obama – Age 50).
Of the 62 or under Supreme Court Justices, three are conservative and two are liberal (even if it’s not Kagan, it’ll be someone under 62), putting progressives behind the 8-ball long-term. Of the over-71 Justices, it’s evenly split. Because the Supreme Court comes with a life term, anybody who is interested in changing the makeup of the court has to read the actuarial tables. The only older Justice with a publicly-known serious health problem is Ginsburg (colon cancer in ’99, pancreatic cancer in ’09). Odds are that she won’t be on the bench in January, 2017. We have to hope that either Obama wins a second term or that she errs on the side of caution and retires early.
As for the others, all we can do is hope. Don’t bother chewing that red meat, Justice Scalia – it tastes better going down in big chunks. Don’t worry Justice Kennedy – you’re fine to drive… light beer has hardly any alcohol. Here’s a gift certificate for flying lessons Justice Roberts… enjoy. No, that’s not gas you smell Justice Thomas… light up that cigar. Allergic to peanuts, Justice Alito… I’m pretty sure that sauce is fine.
Because if the good lord doesn’t see fit to call one of his fascist children home before their time, we may be living in Bush’s America for a while.