When you think of all of the issues facing this country that need to be addressed, what are just a few that immediately come to mind?
Gun control in the wake of the rampage of mass shootings? Taking big money out of politics so that every citizen’s voice is as loud with our elected representatives as the views of big money lobbyists? Enhancing voting rights rather than suppressing them? Ensuring that voting districts represent the residents of a particular geographic area and are not subject to partisan gerrymandering so that rather than citizens choosing their elected officials, officials choose their electorate? A woman’s right to choose? These come immediately to my mind, but just scratch the surface of all of the issues facing this country.
If you are confounded as to why issues like these remain issues with no resolution in sight you have to look no further than the John Roberts’ Supreme Court whose motto should appropriately be “turn back the hands of time.”
Regarding gun control, you have to look no further than the court’s ruling in the District of Columbia vs. Heller case in 2008. In that case, the court ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms and is not connected to service in a militia.
In the ruling, the court stated that the “right to bear arms” extended to traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and that the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and requirement that lawfully owned rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” violated that guarantee.
Even though the court, in its ruling, also stated that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and that guns and gun ownership would continue to be regulated, the damage was done, and the floodgates were open.
It was the very first Supreme Court case, in the history of the Supreme Court, to decide that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and is not connected directly to membership in a state militia as noted explicitly in the wording of the Second Amendment.
Moreover, in its ruling, the court struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional deciding that handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment and that the Regulations Act was an unconstitutional ban.
So be it, but how did this ruling pave the way for unlimited access to military assault weapons?
Are you concerned about money in politics? Look no further than the court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. In that case, the court held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting “independent expenditures for political communications by corporations including nonprofit corporations, labor unions and other associations.”
The case involved attempts by a conservative nonprofit organization, Citizens United, to air a film highly critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just before the 2008 primaries. This was in violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which prohibited any corporation or labor union from making an “electioneering communication within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election, or making any expenditure advocating the election or defeat of a candidate at any time.”
The court ruled that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s prohibition of all independent expenditures by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. In its ruling, the court overturned Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce from 1990, which called for some restrictions on speech-related spending based on corporate identity. It also overruled portions of McConnell v. FEC from 2003 which also placed some restrictions on corporate spending on electioneering communications.
In effect, the Citizens United ruling served to free both labor unions and corporations to spend money on election-related communications and to advocate for the election or defeat of candidates directly. Corporations are not people. If they were, there would be no purpose for people to incorporate to protect their assets. Regardless the floodgates were opened! Thank you Roberts’ Court for enabling corporations and lobbyists to undermine the voice of the people…NOT!
Are you frustrated yet? Let’s take a look at voting rights or, instead, the suppression thereof.
The Shelby County v. Holder case of 2013 involved the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically, Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain “federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices,” and Section 4(b), which provides the formula for determining which jurisdictions are subjected to that preclearance as a result of their past actions of voting discrimination.
In its ruling, the court held that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the data used to determine past actions is in some cases over 40 years old, thus making it “no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.” Although the court did not strike down Section 5, without Section 4(b), there is no formula to determine coverage of the law.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia had said the provisions were outdated. However, the result of the court’s ruling has made it far easier for state officials to make it harder for African American and other minority voters to vote. Six years after the verdict, more than 1,000 polling places have been closed in the U.S. with many, if not most, of the closed polling places in predominantly African American counties.
There is absolutely no doubt that changing and reducing voting locations reduces voter turnout of minority voters. That is precisely the goal of Republican legislators.
Massive turnout benefits Democrats, and low turnout benefits Republicans. Add this to cuts to early voting, purges of voter rolls and imposition of strict voter ID laws and the impact on voter turnout is monumental. Once again, thank you Roberts’ Court for the dismantling of our democracy…NOT!
Still not frustrated enough? Let us jump to partisan gerrymandering and its impact on representation in Congress thanks to this same Roberts’ Court.
In a very recent Supreme Court case, the court had the opportunity to fix the attack on our democracy known as partisan gerrymandering. Not surprisingly, the court chose to exacerbate the problem rather than address it.
In Rucho v. Common Cause the Supreme Court ruled that “while partisan gerrymandering may be incompatible with democratic principles, the federal court cannot review such allegations, as they present ‘nonjusticiable political’ questions outside the remit of these courts.” Although admittedly I have not a clue what that last sentence technically means, I can readily figure out that the court decided to punt instead of kick regarding the issue of gerrymandering.
Are you wondering about a woman’s right to choose? Roe v. Wade has yet to be overturned entirely, but stay tuned. This is the Roberts’ Court.