Noted Conservative Hack Jonah Goldberg posted a little article tearing into the idea that the Supreme Court is the place where we define what is and is not constitutional. He is defending the new radical Republican talking point that all legislation should have a constitutional justification attached to it. This is the Tenther’s (folks who think that the powers of the Federal Government are completely enumerated in the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment gives all other powers to the states individually) favorite meme.
They would use this thinking to end the Federal minimum wage, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. All the big Tea Party faves have this idea, with Joe Miller, Sharon Angle and Christine "I am not a witch" O’Donnell really leading the charge.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
This idea is nuts on the surface but it is packed full of nutty goodness as you get deeper as well. The whole push for "constitutional fealty" by the Right is a ruse and always has been. The reason that they want to return to so called original intent it so wipe out two centuries of case law that does not suit their radical agenda.
Things like the Loving decision and Brown v Board of Education have pushed our civil rights in the direction that seems most consistent with the intent of the Framers who wanted the people of their nation to be free and equal under the law.
Mr. Goldberg makes the point that all legislators should be deciding for themselves what is and is not constitutional and should vote against anything they think is unconstitutional. That is fine as far as it goes, but he fails to understand that the while there is a need to think about constitutionality of legislation, the Legislative and Executive Branch are political branches by design. They have other concerns than just the law and the Constitution.
This can be clearly seen in the over-reaction to the 9/11 attacks. A partisan majority in the House and Senate, at the demand of their constituents, put into affect laws that would have been anathema to a previous Congress. Further the Executive Branch set out to do things which the Supreme Court has found to be unconstitutional in terms of declaring citizens "enemy combatants" and holding prisoners indefinitely.
This same Congress and Executive Branch enacted a law invalidating Heaves Corpus, the right to challenge your detention and face your accusers. It also tried to prevent the Courts from even reviewing this law.
Mr. Goldberg asks, sarcastically:
Before we get to the historical niceties, a question:
Does anyone, anywhere, think legislators should vote for legislation they think is unconstitutional? Anyone? Anyone?
How about Presidents? Should they sign such legislation into law?
All the acts above were voted and signed into law, and based on Goldberg’s premise we have to assume they were thought to be constitutional by those who proposed and voted one them. The thing is not everyone agreed that they were Constitutional, including the branch of government that has become our arbiter of the Constitution, the Judicial branch.
These abuses show exactly why the Supreme Court must be the final say. The reaction of a political branch to the political situation of the nation can lead to laws that are contrary to the goals of the nation, to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty. Without a review of calmer heads who do not have to look to the fickle whim of the electorate for their continued employment gives us a check that is badly needed, especially in times when demagoguery and know-nothingism runs rampant.
It is not as though there are not checks on the Judiciaries’ powers as well. Yes, the Supreme Court is the final say on what is and what is not constitutional, but the Legislative Branch can keep working on legislation until it passes muster. Or there can be a change in the Constitution and then the High Court would need to use that as part of its thinking going forward.
Basically Goldberg is using the old reductio ad absurdum argument, where he takes a outlandish premise, extrapolates to the completely absurd then argues against that absurd conclusion. There is no doubt that legislators should consider if a piece of legislation is constitutional or not. However there is a wide range of opinion, even among Supreme Court Justices what this means. To assume that some of our less than swift legislators will take the time to think through all the constitutional ramifications of every piece of legislation, when many of them don’t read the entire bill, is absurd in and of itself.
However Mr. Goldberg’s goal is not good government. He is more interested in making sure that the powerful interests that many legislators lean on to tell them if a law is good policy or not continue to have a disproportionate amount of power. He wants to spin up his low information base to the idea that we are betraying the Constitution while weakening the power of the only branch that can and will put a check on a reactionary political climate and prevent the legislating away of rights protected by the Constitution and centuries of law based on it.
No system of government is perfect, as Winston Churchill said:
Democracy is the worst form of government. With the exception of every other form tried.
This premise that the courts should not interpret law is one that conservatives love. It plays into the idea that complex problems can be solved with simple solutions, the beloved and mythical "common sense". In the governance of a nation of 300 million plus citizens spread out over a third of continent there can be no simple solutions. Having one place where the final say is granted is a needed aspect of governing and pushing know-nothingism in regards to it is at best disingenuous and at worst dangerous to our overall Republic.
The floor is yours.