A 'radical bunch of ideologues': Journalist breaks down the real threat SCOTUS poses to American democracy

A 'radical bunch of ideologues': Journalist breaks down the real threat SCOTUS poses to American democracy

The warning that “elections have consequences” proved to be painfully accurate when the U.S. Supreme Court’s theocratic majority overturned Roe v. Wade with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And yet another threat to privacy protections looms after Justice Clarence Thomas recommended that the High Court “reconsider” key rulings that offer national protection for gay rights and contraception.

Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the United States’ last eight presidential elections, yet Republican-appointed justices now have a 6-3 Supreme Court majority. That majority is often described as “conservative” in media reports, but journalist Richard Wolffe, in a scathing op-ed published by The Guardian on July 7, argues that the High Court of 2022 is not dominated by “conservatives,” but by “radical ideologues” of the far right.

“Peering through the mists of time, the current right-wingnut majority of the U.S. Supreme Court believe they can divine the original ideas of some very dead White men,” Wolffe writes. “On that flimsy basis, they rule by fiat. They order states to remove sensible gun safety measures. Then, they deny women reproductive rights by pretending that states can do whatever they want. They say that presidents cannot limit carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis. And now, they are ready to change the way we elect presidents.”

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Wolffe continues, “Whatever you call the current crusade of this Supreme Court, their approach is not conservative. There is nothing stable or traditional about throwing out a half-century of civil rights and quite possibly a century of democratic practice. This is a radical bunch of ideologues who have spent years projecting themselves onto their critics.”

When Wolffe mentions threats to “the way we elect presidents” and a “century of democratic practice,” he is referring to the case Moore v. Harper — which deals with a crackpot legal theory known as the independent state legislature doctrine. According to that theory, state legislatures should have sole authority over how elections are governed in a state — not a state’s supreme court, not judges, not the governor. Removing a state’s executive and judicial branches from that equation could give seriously gerrymandered, GOP-controlled state legislatures unprecedented power when it comes to how elections are managed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, over the years, has repeatedly rejected the independent state legislature doctrine. But in Moore v. Harper, the Court’s 2022 edition has agreed to consider what Wolffe describes as “the fringe notion that state legislatures can set their own rules for federal elections.”

“That includes picking whoever they want for president,” Wolffe warns. “This just happens to have been the big wet dream of one Donald Trump in the weeks after he definitively lost the presidential election of 2020…. Who needs messy democracy when you can just have Republican rule? Since most of the state legislatures have been gerrymandered into huge Republican majorities — and the Electoral College skews power towards smaller states — this wonderfully undemocratic and un-American idea is now perfectly in line with the original intent of the Founders and ratifiers.”

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Wolffe adds, “The Constitution may say that states can pick their own presidential electors however they want. But the Electoral College has been decided by the popular vote since the 19th Century, when the states realized early in the nation’s life that all the other methods of picking electors led to widespread corruption. So, to return to the original intent of the Founders just ignores more than a century of democracy — and the very idea that the United States somehow leads the Free World. To be frank, the threat to democracy posed by this Supreme Court is clear and present.”

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