Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I imagine school children are still being taught about “checks and balances”. As we “learned” in public school long ago, the Supreme Court is designed to be above politics.

The Roberts court, 5-4, shows us what that’s all about in the USA today — not that we needed more lessons after Bush versus Gore and “Citizens United”.

The new rulings further limiting affirmative action and gutting the Voting Rights Act show us what gets “checked” and what doesn’t get “balanced”.  What the Court checks is any remnant of progressivism and civil rights that the reactionary bloc in Congress has been unable to wipe out directly. Texas is quick to show us what gets knocked out of balance: any restraint on restricting the right to vote. Texas is immediately instituting voter ID and discriminatory districting maps. The door is now open to the flood of state measures to make it more difficult for the poor and people of color to vote, an offensive that was only partially blocked before the 2012 elections.

Actually what is being checked today is the very ability of government to function in the public interest. With the present balance in Washington, there is a blockade against food stamps, assistance to the unemployed, jobs programs, debt relief for students, pre-school funding, and on and on. In contrast, permitted by so-called bipartisan consensus are massive military expenditures, trade “partnerships” that favor corporations and limit access to affordable medicine, a huge unconstitutional “intelligence” dragnet, and an hysterical search and destroy mission against whistleblowers.

Of course that’s not the whole story. Where people have gotten angry enough to take to the streets, as well as to lobby, petition and vote, some good causes have advanced, at least part of the way. Even where progress is made, the blockade does not give way, as we have seen with health care and now with immigrant rights. With gun control, even though it was favored by 90% of the public, the blockade wasn’t dented.

No one can predict when the tide may turn. But no significant shift can take place without breaking the blockade in Congress, defeating the GOP and some Democrats who hear the same corporate master’s voice. With the country moving forward, the Supreme Court’s present 5-4 imbalance would not last very long.

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