Weekend Assignment: Concerning the Court
I promised some months ago, now, that I would not again touch on political matters here in my blog. It’s a policy based on the fact that while I may (and do) have strong political opinions, I recognize that those of differing opinions may on occasion be put off my the strong expression of those opinions – and it’s hard not to express your opinions strongly when your opinions are strong.
In general, I’m of the mind that reasonable debate considering the facts and the logical ramifications of various ideas is the best way to achieve rational policy decisions. Unfortunately, that’s not the way politics works in the United States. (For those of you not of the USian persuasion, the way politics works here is that the two sides of the political divide engage in a shouting match, and who ever shouts the loudest wins.)
I do want to be able to engage readers on my blog, from time to time, on political issues – in a calmly rational way that leaves everyone the happier for it – because I believe that a good discussion will allow all parties to learn much from each other, and because it is a lack of discussion that in part is at the heart of the political problems in our country. But I haven’t yet figured out how to do so in a controlled way, and in a way that will not be offensive to potential readers who have differing political ideologies.
This concerns me because my purpose here is to have a place where I can engage potential readers. And until I figure out how to do this right, I don’t want to alienate potential readers. That said, I’m honestly not sure how to proceed with answering the latest Weekend Assignment, given that it asks a rather political question. I considered not participating, but instead I decided to wade in and try to navigate these potentially dicey political waters. The question posed:
Recently, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire, at the end of his term, later this year, leaving the position open to be filled by President Obama. As you know, Obama has chosen Elena Kagen [sic] as his nominee. I would like to hear your thoughts about this. Good choice? Bad choice? Indifferent? Who would you like to see appointed to the high court? Are you happy with the justices currently serving, or do you believe they leave something to be desired? Tell me what you think!
Extra Credit: Write one paragraph about a supreme court decision you felt strongly about either positively or negatively.
Wow. Dicey! If I can navigate this question without offending anyone, maybe I can handle it around here after all.
To start: no, I don’t have any strong feelings about nominee Elena Kagan, per se. She was dean of Harvard Law School, which means she’s smart, and knows a lot about the law, which is important for a Supreme Court Justice but, in itself, is insufficient to qualify her for the job. She also had a reputation for bridging the gap between the left and right on campus, which could also prove helpful for a Supreme Court Justice, whose role is to theoretically to be apolitical and focus on fairly interpreting the law. Again, however, this is insufficient as a qualification, per se. And that about sums up my knowledge of Kagan. She has good things going for her in the smarts department, but beyond that, I can’t comment further.
On the Court in general, well, I think the current make-up of the Court leaves something to be desired. I don’t believe it’s a radical position to say that I disagree very strongly with certain recent decisions of the Court – and that certain of those decisions, if taken to their logical conclusions, have the potential to set a precedent that will erode and destabilize the freedoms of democracy that we currently enjoy in the United States. Not to put to fine a point on it, but Corporations, as entities, exist at the behest of the government. They have no legal, ordained right to exist, as far as the Constitution is concerned. My reading of that document suggests that certain rights are extended to the people of this country, and extending those same rights – even if just one of those rights – to corporations necessarily begs the question why all such rights are not automatically afforded to them. It’s a logical principle. I don’t think anyone today would argue that it’s a good idea to allow corporations to vote, or to run for public office, or to do any of the sorts of things citizens are able to do as a natural right of their citizenship. But suggesting that we cannot infringe the “free speech rights” of corporations sets a precedent for allowing corporations to claim the rights of citizens. And, with that precedent set, whatever we think it means today, there will be somebody who argues to extend to corporations further rights in the future. And with that precedent in place, how can we logically argue against it? There. I said it.
So, a Court that partially consists of five Justices who were so obtuse that they couldn’t foresee this completely logical ramification of their decision… Well… It doesn’t give me a lot of faith in the intellectual capacities of the Court as currently constituted. And to turn over 100 years of pre-existing precedent on the matter in order to make this political point? That’s just political pandering of the lowest sort.
And, there, I did it. I started expressing strong views in a strong and potentially inflammatory manner. But in this particular issue… I’m just not sure how you can tiptoe around the audacity and egregiousness of it.
So, thoughts… How did I do? I’m really trying, here, to sound like the political moderate I really am.