Alan Zendell, December 11, 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, our country faces a number of critical challenges at the same time. The media seem to like to pose the situation as a challenge to the Biden administration, and it is, but every American should be engaged, now, because every challenge will ultimately affect all our lives. The list would be intimidating for any administration:
- a belligerent Russia testing its boundaries
- an expansionist China with its sights on Taiwan and the entire South China Sea
- climate change and rising sea levels
- the anti-vax movement which threatens to make new COVID variants an annual event that continues to kill Americans
- the growing aggressiveness of right-wing extremist groups
- the danger that Trumpism will metastasize into a cancer that destroys what made America great
- attempts by states to undermine our Constitution, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, which empowered the federal government to overturn discriminatory state laws
Once again, I am grateful to historian Heather Richardson’s Letters to an American for focusing my attention on the last item in the list. All of them are important; I’d be hard pressed to rank them. The specific issue in today’s Letter was the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Texas’ new abortion law that makes abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy and deputizes every radical whacko in the state to bring such violent criminals to justice.
What the Court ruled on was the federal government, specifically the Justice Department’s right to file suit with the Court when it finds a state law to be discriminatory or depriving individuals of their basic civil rights, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Court permitted the suit to go forward, but not with respect to the part of law that abridges a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. Virtually every physician critical of the law cited the fact the most women do not know they’re pregnant until after six weeks.
This is an important issue, but the broader implications of the Court ruling are absolutely critical to our future. First, the decision tells us that all three justices appointed by Donald Trump either lied to the Congress or deliberately misled them during their confirmation hearings. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for example, specifically testified that she considered Rowe v Wade established legal precedent. Yet, in supporting the most restrictive part of Texas’ new law, she completely undermined Rowe. This has massive impact. If we cannot trust the integrity of judges vying to be Supreme Court Justices, or more to the point, if we cannot trust the Senate to honestly, aggressively, vet candidates instead of rubber-stamping anyone who fits the current ideology of an obstructive minority, we might as well adopt Valdimir Putin’s version of justice.
If prospective Justices can deliberately deceive the country by lying about their intent, nothing is safe. If a fifty-year precedent guaranteeing a woman’s right to control her own body can be overturned by simple political pressure and deceit, what else can be easy so easily erased? States controlled by right-wing extremists under the thumb of Trump will be encouraged and enabled by yesterday’s ruling to appeal to the Court to eliminate the federal government from every decision regarding public health concerns, (policies on vaccination, masks, and mandates in general,) mitigating climate change, allowing the NRA to set national gun rights policy, and undoubtedly most important in the coming months, voting rights.
The future of our republic literally hangs in the balance, and as is the case in many other areas, passivity on the part of “we the people” will only make matters worse. You may reasonably ask how individual citizens can influence the Supreme Court, where Justices are appointed for life and can only be impeached if the Senate believes them guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, which totally politicizes the Court in direct violation of the Constitution. The truth is that the Court can be influenced by public opinion if it is loud, constant, and focused. The abortion issue is clearly one in which we have a voice, as more than sixty percent of Americans have supported Roe v Wade since that ruling was issued.
Chief Justice John Roberts has always considered the broader impact of his decisions on all of us, rather than engaging in politically motivated activism. Yesterday, he joined the liberal minority on the Court, warning his colleagues that the “clear purpose and actual effect” of the Texas law was “to nullify this Court’s rulings.” That, he said, undermines the Constitution and the fundamental role of the Supreme Court and the court system as a whole.
It only took Adolf Hitler three months to co-opt the Judiciary in the Weimar Republic. The process we are witnessing today is slower and more excruciating, but equally as dangerous.