Monday, May 02, 2005

We Want Judges Who Decide Things Our Way. Doesn't Everybody?

I found that there's one thing that gets those 'wingers going, and it's mentioning Al Gore. I got a chance to exchange emails with one of my frequent conservative critics, who said that Gore should have been a "statesman" like Nixon and just conceded the close election in 1960. That gave me a chance to remind him that while Nixon personally didn't contest the election, largely because Eisenhower refused to play along and it wouldn't have been politically palatable, lots of Nixon surrogates made challenges in 11 different states--and, in fact, the electoral votes for Hawaii did change as a result of a court challenge, but in Kennedy's favor.

So we had to disagree that Nixon had it right by pretending to abide by the vote count but having his supporters run those challenges, with his knowledge, and Gore should have been sneaky like Nixon instead of actually playing a role in the Florida challenge--or something. But at least I got him off the "Nixon was robbed and behaved himself" meme, for a while. Anyway, the background for this bit of American history is available here, for those of you interested.

And if you think I'm being hyperbolic, over the weekend Pat Robertson said that federal judges are a more serious threat to America than Al Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorists. Hard to top that one. And if Pat Robertson doesn't count against Republicans, can someone explain again to me who Ward Churchill is and why I'm somehow responsible for him?

The link to the Gore speech, mentioned below, is here.

East Valley Tribune, May 1, 2005

With all this right-wing talk about “black-robed tyrants,” maybe we should listen to one American with recent personal experience with an out-of-control and unaccountable judiciary.

That would be Al Gore, who last Thursday gave a speech that doubled as a history lecture, putting into perspective -- using words of the Founders of our republic -- the current ruling party’s desire to eliminate deliberation, dissent, and democracy, and their efforts to change the rules and pack the courts.

If anybody can speak with authority and experience about judicial overreach, and tyrannical judges, and legislating from the bench, it would be Al Gore.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to stop votes from being counted, in an unsigned decision they found so embarrassing that the opinion said it isn’t precedent and shouldn’t ever be cited again. While Gore disagreed with the decision, he didn’t contest it -- and he certainly didn’t attack the courts or the judges like the Republicans have.

Following the Court decision, U.S. Senators didn’t try to excuse killers of judges and their family members by saying, on the floor of the Senate, that maybe those criminals took offense at Bush v. Gore.

The U.S. House majority leader didn’t issue over-the-top warnings the justices to “watch their back,” that he would find a way to “deal with them later” for making George W. Bush president.

So all this complaining today by Republicans about judges isn’t about principle; it’s all about power.

Right-wing extremists want to remake the judiciary not in their image, but as their lapdogs. They don’t care about respect for law, and precedent, and democracy. What they really want is activist judges who don’t respect the law and who instead will place personal beliefs -- their extremist views -- ahead of their judicial responsibilities.

They want to own the courts the same way that they are working to seize the mantle of religion, that only people who believe exactly as they do are “people of faith.” Everybody else who believes something else, well, their faith -- my faith -- will be as much a second-class citizen as are non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

And, of course, the same Republicans who insist that every judicial nominee deserves a vote by the full Senate are down at the state Legislature preventing Democrats from having any chance to vote on the state budget -- which they insist must pass with only GOP votes.

I used to think that sometimes I was being overly alarmist, that the Republicans would stop well short of imposing a theocracy, just like Iran, where fundamentalist mullahs tell legislators and judges what to do, and they do it. Then we saw what the GOP White House and Congress did with the Terri Schiavo case. That should teach us all that one must work really, really hard ever to exaggerate what these people want and just how far they’ll go to get it.

In his speech, Gore quoted Madison in Federalist No. 10 warning that “a religious sect may degenerate into a political faction.” What Madison warned about appears to be the case today.

It’s wrong. There’s got to be a limit. We’ve got to tell the Republicans no, there are limits to your power. Our rights depend on it. Our democracy depends on it.

Author Anne Lammot tells the old joke about the new arrival getting the welcome tour of heaven from St. Peter, who points out the various wonders the residents enjoy, such as verdant hills, pleasant meadows, gentle streams, concert halls, art galleries, hills and mountains for those who want to climb, fragrant flowers and sweet music everywhere. Then they come upon a great walled fortress.

“What on earth is that?” asks the man. “Oh,” says St. Peter. “That’s where the fundamentalists live. It’s not heaven for them if they think anyone else got in.”

Maybe these folks have the real story about heaven, and they can limit the hereafter to those who believe and think exactly as they do. Maybe. But that’s no reason, here on earth and in this life, to let them trash the courts and the Constitution.

No comments: