Last time around I addressed the hilariously frantic overreaction of both Liberals and Conservatives to the oral arguments about Obamacare presented to the Supreme Court. In a related topic, this time I’ll address what America’s shrill political zealots mean when they say “judicial activism”. This is in amused response to Obama’s whining about the Supreme Court and the power the Justices wield as “unelected figures” appointed for life.
It’s typical of Liberals and Conservatives to cry “judicial activism” whenever the Supreme Court interferes with legislation their particular group supports, but when Supreme Court rulings go their way, those same left-wing and right-wing zealots praise the separation of powers in the United States Constitution that empowers the court to pass such judgements in the first place.
Admittedly, when a sleazy politician like Obama, who probably leaves the same trail of slime behind him that slugs do, makes such hypocritical noises most people laugh and ignore it, but I feel that the judicial branch has come to be misused by both Liberals and Conservatives. Left-wing and right-wing zealots are so out of touch with the rest of us (aka “adults”) that they’ve all come to rely on the Supreme Court as what has been called a “get out of democracy free” card.
Don’t like a piece of legislation that’s already on the books? Just get your side’s justices to pretend they find evidence in the federal (or increasingly, state) constitution that it’s unconstitutional and, if you outnumber them on the court at the moment, have it struck down.
Outraged about elements of the status quo that you feel should be changed? Why waste your time with the democratic (as in lower- case “d”) process and try to get new legislation passed? It’s time- consuming and it means you’d have to present the pros and cons of the legislation before the rest of us who aren’t rabidly partisan and we might signal our elected representatives that we want it voted down. It’s much easier to just get your side’s justices to pretend the constitution ALREADY means the same thing as the legislation you want passed and therefore it’s against the law NOT to comply with the changes you wanted.
This is often called judicial tyranny and the term certainly applies. It can be argued that with the judiciary branch’s ever-increasing tendency to overstep their constitutional boundaries (based on the inherent Catch 22 that THEY are supposed to be the arbiters of what is or is not constitutional ) means that we are no longer a democratic republic but an oligarchy ruled by a floating majority of 5 out of 9 Justices.
You may argue that we should just pass legislation that imposes term limits on the Justices or that makes it easier to impeach them for flagrant political bias or that requires Supreme Court decisions to carry a vote of at least 6 or 7 out of 9 Justices instead of the simple majority of 5. When you consider how many hotbed issues have been decided in the court by slender 5-4 rulings that last is a particularly attractive notion.
If the court has enough cases default by a lack of 6-3 (or better) decisions it might actually spur the legislative branches in federal and state governments to stop letting the court bail them out and take the heat for unpopular measures that rightly belong in the court of public opinion. Unfortunately you then face the dilemma of what to do when the power-loving Supreme Court simply strikes down as unconstitutional the legislation passed to curb its abuses. We can reasonably ask, if the figures abusing their power are the only ones who can decide what is constitutional when it comes to stopping them from abusing that power doesn’t that confirm their status as tyrants?
The insanity of believing that everyone HAS to be either a Liberal or a Conservative is confirmed by the fact that if I had posted this opinion piece when a Conservative piece of legislation was up for review I’d be accused of being a Conservative, but since I happened to post it when a Liberal piece of legislation is up for review I have no doubt some will accuse me of being a Liberal. This strengthens my usual argument in these pieces that silly labels like Liberal and Conservative have outlived their usefulness and their meaning.
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