Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Judge Not

There are countless examples available to confirm that the current crop of Republicans neither understand nor love the Constitution; and that they have no love whatever for the concept of democracy, as understood for generations in the US of A. Whether it's the deliberate suppression of freedom to vote (my former #1 outrage), attempting to make this a theocracy, calling peaceful demonstrations unamerican, or overt moves to ruin public education, the list is both endless and endlessly depressing.

But the latest and most horrific wrinkle in the parchment is their relentless denigration of the idea of independent judiciary -- maybe the most important link in the chain of checks and balances -- culminating in plans directly to cut funding and power.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates want to wipe away lifetime tenure for federal judges, cut the budgets of courts that displease them or allow Congress to override Supreme Court rulings on constitutional issues.

Any one of those proposals would significantly undercut the independence and authority of federal judges. Many of the ideas have been advanced before in campaigns to court conservative voters.

"... to court conservative voters." Kinda tells you what's happened to the word, doesn't it?

A group that works for judicial independence says the proposals would make judges “accountable to politicians, not the Constitution.”

Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign, said, “Debates like these could threaten to lead to a new cycle of attempts to politicize the courts.”


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been the most outspoken critic of the courts. He would summon judges before Congress to explain their decisions and consider impeaching judges over their rulings.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in his book “Fed Up,” has called for an end to lifetime tenure for federal judges and referred to the high court as “nine oligarchs in robes.”

Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, in criticizing Iowa judges who ruled same-sex marriage legal in the state, described judges as “black-robed masters.”

I've said before, these are not serious people. But this actually is really serious: to make the courts subservient to Congress is to throw the Constitution on the burn pile; it's to reject one of the most fundamental tenets of our democracy.

That candidates for the presidential nomination of a supposedly important political party can make such declarations -- whether they believe them (probably) or it's just their usual political pandering -- is shocking. This is what you expect to hear -- and do -- from dictators. It should absolutely disqualify them from further consideration by any party; but most especially, you'd think, from the one that claims to own all rights to loving America and its founding principles. Trouble is, they do nothing of the sort: love America, that is. They love nothing about what has always made it great: its diversity, its educational system, its freedom of expression, its brilliant invention of shared and restrained power. Like an independent judiciary, charged with seeing to it that rights aren't trampled, and that laws are followed, even when inconvenient. It keeps us from tyranny.

Which, I'd say, is exactly their point.

It's horrible; it's deeply frightening; and, the way things are looking, it's only a matter of time.

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