Columnist likens U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority to a ‘junta in long black robes’

Columnist likens U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority to a ‘junta in long black robes’
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Much of the criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been coming from liberals and progressives along with centrist Democrats. But on the right, a combination of Never Trump conservatives and libertarians have also been slamming the Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade after 49 years — allowing a long list of red states to pass draconian statewide abortion bans if they choose.

The naked authoritarianism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s socially conservative majority threatens a lot more than abortion rights. Justice Clarence Thomas has called for the U.S. to “reconsider” High Court rulings that have been protecting access to abortion and gay rights. Thomas specifically mentioned 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut, 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas and 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges.

This authoritarianism is the focus of two Washington Post opinion columnists: liberal Eugene Robinson in a June 27 column, Never Trump conservative Max Boot in a June 25 column. Robinson and Boot have their political differences, but one thing they obviously agree on is that the Trumpified U.S. Supreme Court has taken a tyrannical turn.

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Robinson likens the U.S. Supreme Court’s socially conservative majority to a “secretive and unaccountable junta in long black robes.” Junta is a strong word, but considering that one-third of the justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump — the most authoritarian and dangerously corrupt president in U.S. history — it doesn’t seem like an exaggeration.

“I describe them with a term more commonly used for Latin American military regimes because, well, that’s what it feels like,” argues Robinson, who once worked as a foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “They want a country where women, once again, are at best second-class citizens. Their decision Friday to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that protected the constitutional right to abortion means that women, unlike men, no longer have dominion over their own bodies.”

Robinson adds, “They want a country where every pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, is carried to full term. They want women who seek terminations, and the doctors or nurses or friends or Uber drivers who help them in any way, to potentially be subject to criminal charges or civil lawsuits.”

This “junta,” Robinson warns, “does not believe the nation’s Founders were serious about the separation of church and state” and sees the U.S. as a “Christian nation, not a secular one.”

“A ruling Monday found that it was fine for a football coach at a public high school to lead his team in prayer at midfield after games,” Robinson observes. “A decision last week decreed that if states give grants of public money for students to attend private schools, religious schools must also be eligible for those funds…. Previous Supreme Court majorities have expanded the rights and opportunities of the marginalized — women, of course, but also, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ citizens, the disabled. The junta clearly sees these rights as suspect.”

Robinson continues, “Our black-robed rulers will, in the future, be asked to vote up or down on affirmative action, same-sex marriage and other questions that involve the concept of equity. I shudder to imagine what they will do.”

Boot, in his column, notes that the United States’ Founding Fathers built “many checks and balances into the Constitution” because they feared “the tyranny of the majority.” But the conservative columnist emphasizes that the Founders, including Alexander Hamilton, also feared “the tyranny of the minority,” which, Boot argues, is the problem the U.S. is facing in 2022.

“Hamilton’s nightmare has become the reality of 21st-Century America,” Boot laments. “We are living under minoritarian tyranny, with smaller states imposing their views on the larger through their disproportionate sway in the Senate and the Electoral College — and therefore, on the Supreme Court. To take but one example: 21 states with fewer total people than California have 42 Senate seats. This undemocratic, unjust system has produced the new Supreme Court rulings on gun control and abortion.”

Boot points out that the High Court “has no obligation to follow the popular will,” but he has a problem with the Court being openly contemptuous of the majority — a majority that, he notes, wanted to keep Roe v. Wade, according to polls.

“It is hard for any disinterested observer to have any faith in what the right-wing justices are doing,” Boot argues. “They are not acting very conservatively in overturning an abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, that is 49 years old and a New York state gun-control statute that is 109 years old. In both cases, the justices rely on dubious readings of legal history that have been challenged by many scholars to overturn what had been settled law.”

Boot argues that the United States’ “perverse political system” has “allowed a militant, right-wing minority to hijack the law.”

“In all likelihood, Roe would not have been overturned if then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had not broken with precedent by refusing to grant President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a vote in 2016,” Boot explains. “McConnell brazenly held the seat open for President Donald Trump to fill. Now, Trump’s appointee, Neil M. Gorsuch, is part of the five-justice majority that has overturned Roe. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. joined with the other five justices to uphold the Mississippi abortion law but not to overrule Roe.”

Boot wraps up his column by lamenting that “public faith in the Supreme Court” continues “eroding.”

“We are experiencing what the Founders feared: a crisis of governmental legitimacy brought about by minoritarian tyranny,” Boot warns. “And it could soon get a whole lot worse. In his concurring opinion in the abortion case, Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Court to overturn popular precedents upholding a right to contraception, same-sex relationships and marriage equality. So much for Hamilton’s hope that ‘the sense of the majority should prevail.’”

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