Politics and Court Picks: Who Should Be Most Concerned?

Conservative pundit Marc A. Thiessen writes in the Washington Post that Chief Justice John Roberts’ health care ruling is just the latest surprise from Supreme Court justices nominated by Republican presidents. Thiessen, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, cites various “liberal” rulings by Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and former Justices David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor: “Democrats have been virtually flawless in appointing reliable liberals to the court. Yet Republicans, more often than not, appoint justices who vote with the other side on critical decisions.”

Excuse me. Can he spell S-c-a-l-i-a?

Thiessen is saying exactly what one would expect a conservative columnist to say about the judiciary, especially when a decision has gone against them. The right wing has long been on a mission to discredit and destroy the role of the courts as the check and balance the Constitution intends them to be.

At the same time, they often hypocritically propose that the solution is to make the courts even more political by electing judges rather than appointing them.

Sen. Jeff Sessions summed up this point of view, “This ‘Washington-knows-best’ mentality is evident in all branches of government, but is especially troublesome in the judiciary, where unelected judges have twisted the words of our Constitution to advance their own political, economic, and social agendas.”

That conservative drumbeat has convinced many voters that the Court has become increasingly political. Recent polls show that 2/3 of Americans think politics played too great a role in the Supreme Court’s health care ruling.

And indeed politics probably did play a role, as they always have. The Court didn’t expand civil rights to African Americans until it was clear that the American people were becoming more open to it. And at the time (1954) the Court decided Brown v Board of Education declaring that school segregation unconstitutional, conservatives made the same case against the judiciary–saying it was too “political.” They even tried to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren.

The fact is those “liberal” justices are actually the most “conservative” in the sense of applying the Constitution’s basic premise that liberty and justice applies to everyone, regardless of where we live, or what color or gender we might be.

And Theissen and his conservative buddies ought to be rejoicing that they held four votes against the Affordable Care Act while their usual fifth, Chief Justice Roberts, laid the groundwork to roll back the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and further lean toward states rights in their jurisprudence.

So which side should be more concerned about the Court’s direction after all?

An excerpt of this article ran in the Politico Arena. Here is a link to my response to the Arena question.

GLORIA FELDT is the bestselling author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the honors she has been given, Vanity Fair named her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” she was named Glamour’s “Woman of the Year,” a She Knows Media Inspiring Woman, and a Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st century.

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, she has created the most comprehensive initiative to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. The women’s leadership nonprofit offers a variety of training programs and workshops including the 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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