Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Conservative Shangri La

The Right-Wing Supreme Court That Wasn't:

Conservatives thought this Supreme Court term would be different.

Still reeling from losses last year in major cases on health care and same-sex marriage, they welcomed a new docket in October studded with cases that seemed poised to move the law to the right.

But then came two unexpected turns of events. Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving member of the court’s five-justice conservative wing, died. And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy veered left in two of the term’s biggest cases, joining the court’s liberals in significant decisions favoring affirmative action and abortion rights.

For the second term in a row, the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered liberal decisions at a rate not seen since the famously liberal court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s.
And once again, the "Sphinx of Sacramento" Kennedy was at the heart(break) of the most contentious decisions.
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the affirmative-action case, and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the abortion case, Kennedy voted for (and in the affirmative-action case, personally wrote) strongly worded opinions that suggest the Court has, in fact, moved to the left on these agenda issues.

These two votes announced this week don’t by any stretch make him a new-hatched liberal. Bear in mind that, unless something really bizarre went on behind the scenes, he voted to affirm the Fifth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Texas, the jury-rigged partisan takedown of the administration’s “deferred-action” immigration plan. And his comments from the bench during oral arguments in the public-employee union case, Friedrich v. California Teachers Association, suggest that he believes that 21st-century America is a soulless, totalitarian wasteland of federal overreach and executive tyranny. 
Yet he was in the majority of the Birchfield v. North Dakota 4th amendment decision last week that said warrantless breathalyzers are constitutional, while drawing a line on warrantless blood tests. So refusing a breathalyzer can trigger criminal penalties, but refusing a blood test can't. Weird groupings in that case. 6-2 in the breathalyzer case (two dissenters Sotomayor and Ginsburg saying they were against warrantless breathalyzers) and 7-1 in the blood test case (Thomas, natch, saying he would've forced the blood out of you anyway). 

And Kennedy sided with the hardcore conservatives against Obama's immigration ploy to legalize several million undocumented workers. I say ploy because while most people still think Obama was some champion of undocumented persons, they seem to forget he deported more people in his first six years as president than George W. Bush did in eight. I saw the immigration case as less about presidential overreach, and more about Obama trying to whitewash the record of detainee concentration camps, mass deportations and immigrant abuses that took place for most of his eight years in office.

Nonetheless, it was a surprising string of decisions which saw the court go leftward on major issues, and makes the Republican leadership in the Senate, with their current refusal to hold hearings or a vote on Obama's replacement for Scalia (Merrick Garland), look even more brain dead.

In fact, it's really not a good summer to be a Republican or conservative generally.
 In the space of just two days:
The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that Texas' onerous abortion law were an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to the procedure.

—The House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report on the tragic 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, finding "no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton," according to the New York Times.
—Donald Trump gave a speech in front a literal garbage pile in which he called for the destruction of existing trade pacts and an all-out trade war with China.

It's a political cliché that the Republican Party comprises three pillars: religious, defense and economic. In just two days, all three have been turned upside down.
The Republican convention coming up in a few weeks promises to be one for the ages, similar to how almost 50 years later, people still talk about the Democratic convention of 1968. If the party leaders don't actually attempt to steal the nomination away from Bozo, the riots and violence that promise to follow a Trump feting may be unprecedented.

Looks like the Reagan Revolution, more than 35 years on now, is dead. And conservatives need to move towards a new vision if they or their party plans to stay relevant.

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