Late Night: Judicial Temperament, and Not
It’s funny, albeit in the most depressing possible way, to hear Washington “journalists” discuss Supreme Court Justice (!) Antonin Scalia’s cartoonish hostility to the Voting Rights Act in terms usually reserved for, well, jurists, when Scalia and the Majority he leads are nothing of the kind. Wasting time talking about things we imagine Supreme Court Justices must thoughtfully consider as they contemplate scuttling fifty years of precedent is, as we’ve previously seen, patently ridiculous, when we know in advance Nino and the Gang are going to whatever it is their political movement currently needs at the moment, which is, among other things, a lot less of that messy ol’ democracy thing.
Even in the wake of such blatantly political and legally indefensible decisions such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, the Village media continue to pretend the the majority of the highest court is anything other than a blunt tool of the party that appointed it, and always acts according to some principle or other. That Scalia called voting rights for the darker-hued a “perpetual racial entitlement” so alluring to mere elected representatives that is was up to the all-knowing courts to get rid of them is not news. Scalia had morphed into a black-robed Rush Limbaugh long before he sneeringly told America to just “get over it.”
The real news here, which is unsurprisingly being utterly ignored, has two parts, both equally alarming and, to the non-Village-addled eye, newsworthy, to boot. First, we have a seemingly self-perpetuating cadre of life-appointed justices deeply committed to disenfranchisement of their burgeoning political opponents, and second, and more ominously, they openly relish the fact that the law, public opinion, and the media simply can’t to do anything about it.
Last time Republicans found themselves similarly on the electoral ropes, after LBJ’s crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, they made a conscious decision to insulate themselves from public opinion rather than adapt to it, and after 50 years their effort has finally borne fruit. Despite losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, their every theory, no matter how cockamamie, dominates our discourse, cripples our legislative process, and as we see here, rules by fiat through an aggressively tilted judiciary.
Scalia’s boorish arrogance and indifference to law, precedent, and facts is indeed something that ought to be of paramount importance to the Fourth Estate, and it is, but for all the wrong reasons. Scalia may be a cartoon, and an entertaining one at that, but no one ever asks why in heaven’s name, we all have to live under laws interpreted by such a clownish and sophomoric bigot, who so proudly holds America’s actual citizenry in such contempt.
The very purpose of the lifetime appointment was based on the rather naive assumption that anyone so empowered would, free of the grubby pull of earthly politics, rule for the Greater Good. Our Founders, for all their wisdom, evidently hadn’t ever met such a diabolical sociopath as Nino Scalia, and they must be rolling over in their graves for their Bambi-like innocence in this case.
Even as racially-tinged voter suppression has dramatically escalated since 2008, spreading outside the old Confederacy to the industrial Midwest and beyond, hastily pushed by a party in inexorable demographic decline, some Alabama cracker could proudly argue that that ol’ racism was a thing of the past, like Twinkies, and be taken seriously by a majority of the US Supreme Court.
And, that the poster boy for a corrupt, unaccountable judiciary calls existing voting rights law, essentially, just another handout for uppity darkies, even as he clearly signals his predetermined vote on the matter, is treated as, at worse, a slight breach of decorum, equaled, natch, by his opponents arguing the opposite.
This latest in a long line of flagrantly partisan 5-4 decisions by a Supreme Court unworthy of the name is about to be handed down, and the media is again fiddling while Rome burns, and Scalia whistles “Dixie” in the background. That, and its alarming implications for the future of American Democracy, is news, which is exactly why we aren’t hearing about it.
Too bad. It’s a good story.