Joseph Sabino Mistick: Supreme Court Politics

In the 1970 film “Tora! Torah! Torah!” of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the actor who played Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the leader of the attack, said, “I’m afraid all we did was to wake a sleeping giant and fill it with terrible resolve.”

Throughout our history, there have been court decisions that impact and reshape the future of government and society. For example, Chief Justice Roger Taney Dred Scott Decision on the Fugitive Slave Act sharpened the problems leading to our Civil War.

Many Americans are now hoping that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade is an event of comparable importance.

Those who support the annulment of Roe v. Wade agree with the court when it says “Roe was horribly wrong all along.” Those who wanted Roe v. Wade be confirmed say the real issue is overturning a 50-year-old ruling that granted equality and privacy to women regarding their healthcare decisions.

The Supreme Court has ruled that states, each a stew of political and religious beliefs, should make these decisions for women. And Judge Clarence Thomas, now perhaps effectively a double agent for Democrats’ efforts to secure the vote, wrote a concurring opinion that threatens the personal liberties of millions more Americans on other issues.

Thomas said the court should use the Roe reversal reasoning to take away other rights the Supreme Court has granted. If Thomas gets his way, same-sex marriage, bedroom privacy, and the use of contraceptives will all be left to the whims of individual states.

It’s not good for the Supreme Court or America. After the draft notice leaked in May that showed how the court would overturn Roe, a Gallup poll found that public confidence in the Supreme Court had reached a 50-year high, with only 25% of Americans having confidence in the court.

When the public believes the justices are treating the Supreme Court as a court of expediency – the ability to do whatever they want now that they have the votes – the collapse of public trust is guaranteed.

Some of these judges may be naturally offbeat. Three of the six justices who voted to unseat Roe, and who are part of the right-leaning court, were appointed by a president who lost the popular vote by millions. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were appointed by Donald Trump after his Electoral College victory in 2016.

Each of these judges was then confirmed by a combination of senators who together represent a minority of American citizens, as described by Philip Bump in a December Washington Post article, “The Minority Third of the Supreme Court.”

Once again, impractical suggestions for “reforming” the Supreme Court are being discussed. Eliminating lifetime appointments or increasing its size are natural, but such changes would take a very long time and are simply not likely with narrow majorities in both legislative chambers.

But what is beyond doubt is the big difference between public opinion and the direction of this court. Democrats are certainly hoping that Americans who want change will register and make sure to vote.

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