Category Archives: Supreme Court

Democrats in 2018: Divided We Fall

Image: Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0

What part of “divided we fall” don’t we seem to understand?

Right now, the Republicans are trying to divide us, Fox ‘news’ is trying to divide us, Russian propaganda on Facebook is trying to divide us…they are all in bed together. If we stay divided, we lose!

As we are constantly told: elections have consequences. But so does staying home, as we sadly learned one year ago.

The sad truth is that Democrats vote every four years, Republicans vote every two. If we don’t change this, we will lose!

In 2008, we elected our first African-American president. And then in 2010 we stayed home. The consequences of the 2010 election will reverberate for years to come, especially because it was a census year. That election essentially gave the House of Representatives a veto power over anything that Obama wanted to accomplish, and for the next six years his presidency was hobbled by obstructionism.

In 2014, we stayed home, and that cost us the Senate and thus, a seat on the Supreme Court. The only exception was in 2006, when Americans were finally so disgusted with the failures of the Bush Administration that Democrats took back the House and Senate.

Look at us now: we are squabbling over what happened a year ago, and not focusing on next year. We are at the halfway point between elections and we are lucky that things are not worse. I thought Trump would be a horrible president, but even I didn’t think that he would be this bad. We are lucky that they haven’t been able to pass any major legislation, but behind the scenes they are reshaping the court system with record numbers of appointments, because we stayed home in 2014.

As most of you know, Donna Brazile is trying to sell her book. And nothing sells books like a little controversy. Given her fall from grace in the Democratic Party, she doesn’t seem to care that the controversy that she is sowing will further divide us. Yes, I used to love Donna Brazile, but if she is willing to stir up controversy in order to sell books, then to hell with her. We should only look backward in order to learn how to better move forward.

I am a leftist. I am on the left of the Democratic Party. If there was a viable Democratic Socialist party in this country, I would surely vote for it. But I am also an avowed Pragmatist. There is a big difference between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton, but there is a huge chasm between any Democrat and any Republican right now. Any Democrat is infinitely better than any Republican.

America has never had a working-class party. We have never had a viable Social Democratic Party. The closest thing we have are the Democrats. If we don’t vote for them, we are stuck with the Republicans. In the 1990s Bill Clinton moved the party to the right, in order to accomplish anything. Democrats elected Clinton in 1992, and then stayed home in 1994. The Republican wave that year brought Newt Gingrich the House and obstructionism over the next six years—sound familiar?

The Tea Party was formed by the Koch Brothers and big tobacco as a reaction to Barack Obama. They were the extreme wing of the Republican Party. They pushed the Party so far to the right that we got Trumped. They vote Republican—they don’t stay home and sulk that their party is not far enough in their direction, they got involved and pushed the party further in their direction. Take a lesson from the Tea Party—only on the left.

We oscillate between hope and despair. Don’t let despair keep you from voting. There is great wisdom in William James’s “The Will to Believe” –where he says that “believe in a fact can help bring about the fact”. If we don’t believe that we can make a difference, we are unlikely to try. William James was the godfather of Pragmatism.

As I said, I am very much on the left. So, let me provide you leftists with my favorite Marx quote: “each generation makes its own history, but not as it chooses.” Marx was above all a realist, and in this sense, he was a pragmatist. You have to work with what you have, not with what you want to have. Wanting things to change will not change them, working toward change with the most viable option is the only thing that is likely to work.

If we don’t act soon it may be too late.  The Republicans will be able to pass legislation over the next three years, if we don’t stop them. The only way to stop them is to take back Congress. From voting rights, to civil rights, from the environment to health care, they will destroy everything that liberals have worked for over the last few decades.

They don’t care about democracy, they care about power. And they will use any means to keep it, especially rolling back voting rights. If it is not too late for democracy in America, it may soon be too late.

The Democrats have one mission over the next year: come together and get out the vote. It may sound like hyperbole to say that this may be the most important election in your lifetime, but if you are paying attention to what is happening, you know that is true. Especially given the fact that we cannot go back and change the last election.

Marriage Equality, Democracy, and the Supreme Court

“We cannot let judges overrule the decisions of a democratic majority!”

Supreme Court Marriage Equality

This is the all to common response, often given in the tone of righteous indignation, to various courts deeming bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. With the Supreme Court bringing about marriage equality in 11 additional states last week, we have heard a new slew of charges that the Court is ignoring the democratic mandate of the people.

According to Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, when the supreme court makes such a move, it is “robbing the people of their vote and their voice.

However, this argument is not valid, and it is time to debunk this all to common reasoning.

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Why Atheists Cringe when Church and State Collide

According to two U.S. Supreme Court justices, atheism is not protected by the first amendment. For any atheist, this is a very worrying admission.

Antonin Scalia

In both a recent speech and a recent dissenting opinion (joined by Clarence Thomas) Justice Antonin Scalia has said that the first amendment specifically favors religion. In his speech to the Colorado Christian University last week, he said that it is “utterly absurd” that the first amendment protects freedom from religion.

I will not attempt to counter his interpretation of the first amendment – he is a Supreme Court justice, and I am not – but I would like to talk about a recent supreme court case.

In Greece v. Galloway, the court decided that prayers before local council meetings were constitutional as long as the prayer is not meant to convert people or disparage non-Christians.

This is one of those issues in which people often complain that atheists are really complaining about nothing, and are only trying to make life difficult for people of faith.

While I am sympathetic insofar as there are many atheists who really only seem intent on antagonizing Christians, we must recognize that there is actually a very good reason for atheists to be so hard-nosed about governmental displays of religion.

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We Execute the Innocent: Confronting this Brutal Truth

An innocent man has been exonerated after spending three decades on death row.

When defending the death penalty in 1994 (Callins v. Collins), Justice Antonin Scalia cited the case of Henry Lee McCollum, who was convicted of gang-raping and brutally murdering an 11 year-old girl. His was the sort of case where almost all of us, even those who oppose the death penalty, were forced to say, “yes, this man deserves to die.”

The only problem was, Mr. McCollum was innocent.

Henry Lee McCollum

This Tuesday, after nearly 30 years on death row, DNA evidence has led to his exoneration.

McCollum’s long-overdue release raises an interesting question that brings with it some terrible baggage – have we executed any innocent people? An easier question to answer is how many people on death row have been found to be innocent, and have been acquitted, pardoned, or had the charges dropped.

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Voter ID: The New Jim Crow Laws

WHAT HAPPENED

The fight for civil rights must continue. Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are huge victories for civil rights. However, we cannot let the excitement that has come with this victory eclipse the Supreme Court’s ruling on the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. This ruling not only guts the act but is of particular importance in light of the increasing number of Republican controlled statehouses proposing or adopting voter ID laws, which are functioning to disenfranchise poor minority voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

Racial discrimination in the voting process has long persisted in the United States in the form of gerrymandering, poll taxes, and literacy tests which have worked as a means to disenfranchise minority voters. It was the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement – the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – which outlawed such discriminatory voting practices by mandating those states with the worst history of discrimination attain preclearance from the federal government before making any changes in voting procedures. In particular, it is section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which mandates federal preclearance to any changes in voting procedures of those states with the worst history of discrimination; however, section 5 relies on section 4. It is section 4 which sets forth the formula used to determine which jurisdictions will be subject to the federal preclearance conditions.

On Tuesday, in a 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court deemed section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional for the reason that it no longer reflects the current state of affairs in the United States. According to Chief Justice Roberts, since the country has drastically changed since 1965 and the formula espoused in section 4 of the Voting Rights Act bears no logical relationship to present day voting discrimination, section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. The supreme court used the election of President Barack Obama to illustrate how our country has changed since 1965, and questionably claimed that this was evidence that discrimination is no longer present in the voting process.

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