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G.O.D. and John Roberts

The Supreme Court changes, but nothing really changes.

by James Leroy Wilson
July 21, 2005

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G.O.D. and John Roberts

President Bush has nominated a "safe" candidate, John Roberts, for the Supreme Court. Someone that the Democrats unanimously voted for in 2003 for an Appeals seat. Good call on Bush's part; he has other headaches such as a quagmire in Iraq and the Plame Game.

It is wise for the Democrats to play it safe as well and affirm the nomination. Right when Bush is at the lowest point of his Presidency, the Democrats would do well to let the disasters Bush has brought upon himself unfold, and not pick different fights where there need not be any. Fighting the Roberts nomination would only invigorate Bush loyalists, and other conservatives who were perhaps losing faith in the man. If the Democrats obstruct an uncontroversial judge, a lawyer with a sterling resume, then they will obstruct anyone Bush nominates and anything Bush does. That sort of partisanship would backfire, as Republicans would respond by supporting and excusing anything Bush does. "Red State, Blue State" will carry over into 2008, just because the Democrats are more concerned about the right to an abortion than they are about any everything else. Advantage: Republicans.

And all for what? For a candidate who will probably, maybe, we assume, overturn Roe v. Wade. But it's no guarantee, and the Democrats have forgotten that there are other important issues facing the court. Because interpreting the Constitution is a political, not a judicial, act, you never know how an ex-lower court judge -who formerly applied laws and precedents, and now makes and creates them - will act. Maybe he'll go "moderate" for the first couple of years, and then, if and when Bush has made other appointments and finishes his term, will become hard-core conservative. Maybe he'll studiously follow precedents, or maybe he'll become a philosopher-king writing treatises on the meaning of "liberty."You never know, which is why it's pretty much a waste of time fussing over it.

Why do we make a big deal of the Supreme Court? Because they are politicians, but are unbeholden to special interests or the voters. As a group, they can make a difference; they can actually change the status quo. Think of abortion and racial integration. Decrees by the Supreme Court. No appeals, no votes by the people, no re-election campaigns, no accountability. Persuading just 4-8 of your colleges is a lot easier than persuading dozens, hundreds, or millions of them. Many people vote Democrat or Republican not because of those parties' economic or security policies, but because of the types of Supreme Court Justices they prefer. Many people think that the Supreme Court is where the action is, where change is made.

As opposed to the White House and Capitol Hill. Does meaningful change take place? Yes, but in just one direction: toward more centralized power. Sometimes changes are sudden and drastic, and others come in increments that are individually too small to notice. Other changes don't seem to matter: Reagan's tax cuts seem to have led to low unemployment and a booming stock market; Clinton's tax hikes seem to have led to the same.

But we don't really see changes where it would seem to count. I heard Kathryn Graham say that this nation is under GOD.: Gold, Oil, and Drugs. The implication was that the same small group of people were in control of all three. They profit from inflationary monetary policies and the indebtedness Americans have suffered since we've gone off the gold standard. Foreign and domestic policies favor the use of oil for energy, when cleaner and ultimately cheaper sources of energy could be available. State regulation of drugs and health care have made them increasingly expensive, while cheaper alternative medicines are restricted or banned.

Reintroducing the gold standard, and deregulating and decentralizing our energy and health care industries, would lead to fantastic leaps in wealth and production. Yet such reforms, which we need more than any other, are hardly mentioned, barely on the table for discussion.

This is not to say that other issues, from gun control to affirmative action to school vouchers, are trivial. I'm not suggesting that the make-up of the Supreme Court is unimportant. But often I sense that such issues, and especially scandals like the Plame Game, are distracting us. Why, in a fundamental sense, does the government refuse to act in the best interests of the people on the crucial questions of money, energy, and medicine?

Who profits from the status quo? And do they really care which party is in power, or who sits on the Supreme Court?

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