THREE CARD MONTE
In November last year, we wrote a column for our local newspaper that sought to alert citizens to what was happening at the insistence of the US Supreme Court. In our mind, the Court was acting as “sappers,” disguised enemy soldiers who appear to be working for the “right side,” generally in a civil war setting, but who are really on the ground to blow up each and every opportunity for peaceful solutions.
Further, in our mind, there was no doubt that the Court knew exactly what it was planning to do, and how, by rehearing Citizens United two years ago. The Court, in effect, has become politicized. Since Bush v Gore, the Court has lifted its skirts to show all of us where on the political spectrum it exists, and its leggings are red.
“Forget the endless Senate confirmation hearings, wherein each nominee to the Court promises to abide by earlier Court decisions, except in rare cases. This Court is now pulling down around our ears the very structures that have made the United States the envy of the world, the one nation almost every thinking men and woman from other climates and cultures wants to enter in order to live what has been called, up until now, the American Dream.”
Well, we’ve grown up a bit, and confirmed our fears. The Court is playing Three Card Monte with our Civil Liberties.
The game, a scam, is generally played on street corners, casinos, behind diners. The object of the game is to find where the hidden card is, where the missing pea is, where the solution to a problem could be hiding. By shuffling fast, twisting the cards around (or the peanut shells), by a constant barrage of patter to confuse the gambler, Three Card Monte almost always comes up winners for the gamers.
What we now learn to our surprise and shame is that Chief Justice John Roberts is perhaps the fastest gun in the West. In arranging to release the Court’s findings in an orderly and effective manner, he has purposely, twice, pulled the wool over our eyes and left the reputedly watch-dog press blinded by his sleight of hand.
It is not too much to say that the Best PR Office in the Land exists now in the Supreme Court, not on 18th Street in D.C. or on Madison Avenue. Put aside the Democratic war-rooms, the Tea Parties’ sallies, the Republicans’ America – love it or leave it – rhetoric. Roberts has them beaten, all, and nothing we can see is going to change this soon.
In effect, here is how this spectacular bait-and-switch works. Having decimated one-man-one-vote by maintaining that corporations are people too and should have the right to “speak” with their billions of dollars, drowning out the vote of the common man in elections – a decision roundly excoriated – Roberts then decides he needs to re-establish the sense Americans have long had that the Supreme Court is biasless and non-political. While he finds the “mandate” clause of the New Health Care law flawed, he uploads the validity of the law by declaring that considered as a “tax,” it passes muster. Relief floods a good part of the country.
Quick cut. This week, reviewing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Roberts and his co-patriots declare Section 5 is no longer necessary to the performance of good order of fair elections. There are, he notes, other remedies left in the legislation that will do the same thing, i.e., oversee the wrongful use of legislative gerrymandering and rule changing so that blacks, students, and the elderly will still have a chance at voting when the next election comes round. He does not seem to see or sense that discrimination still exists in this country, now fostered largely by Republican legislatures. So he presents a sweet, soft-toned thesis that life can go on as before, and that every citizen will have a fair shot at voting. This is tantamount to the thinking behind Citizens United, in which Roberts et al decided that the impropriety of big money buying votes around the country did NOT create the probable conflict of interest so many feared. Which led us all to wonder in which universe the Court was living.
Knowing that the decision on Voting Rights would upset a large part of the public, Roberts then switches on his sweet, reasonable smile and releases a decision which completely overshadows the threat to democracy he has just put forward. So much for the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Prop 8 must go back to lower courts where “standing” matters, rather than reason.
And what about our watchdog press? Forget about ‘em. They’ve been taken in with the rest of the country. They focus on the same-sex issues – after all, they’re sexier – and nearly ignore entirely the threat to our ability to vote in coming elections.
See, says Roberts, life isn’t so bad.
This is in no way meant to belittle the millions to whom the defeat of DOMA was crucial. But even here, they too will have to pass new voting qualifications set up by rogue Republican legislatures who apparently have never before heard of the 15th Amendment which grants the vote to everyone, regardless, without tests and extraordinary efforts to qualify.
Roberts may be the most astute Chief Justice in the history of the Court. He knows how to game the system. He knows how to sweeten a pill, although to call the inability to vote as one wishes a pill is belittling enough.
What Roberts is doing, and has done, is play Three Card Monte, asking Americans to find the right pea even as he sings, dances, and shoves the peanut shells right, left, backwards and forwards. The players, us, are naturally confused.
Roberts has managed to satisfy a portion of the public by demeaning the rest of it. Even those he pleases are demeaned eventually when they will come next to a voting site.
How could all this have happened? You know the adage, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Well, given the state of our national legislature these past six years, what is that but a vacuum needing to be filled? The President has tried and failed to fill it. That leaves only the Supreme Court, for two hundred years revered and respected, to step in to such an empty space and to begin to exercise some truly amazing pro-active law-making. Just exactly the sort of law-making from the bench that all nine justices say they abhor.
We cannot with certainly announce that what the court has done will benefit the Republicans. Nor the Democrats, for that matter. But somewhere down the line, an administration of whatever color will be elected and will choose to use the tools so handily fashioned by the Roberts’ Court to lead us beyond Big Brother into the land of the nonliving, the nonhopeful, curtailing the freedom of a once great nation and substituting order above all else.
We are not even going to put a label on that possibility.