On the eve of the Fourth of July, the question to America is this. How’s that independence thing workin’ out for ya?
For all three of its supposedly equal branches of government, not so well is the pithy answer to that one.
In the bulbous shape of its president, the executive appears to be dependent on the continued refusal of his Russian counterpart to liberate the alleged kompromat (sexual, urinary, commercial, whatever) from the Kremlin safe.
The legislature, in the abysmally sycophantic shape of both Republican-controlled houses of Congress, has abandoned any pretence of independence. GOP senators and representatives are the president’s adoring hostages in the most obscene case of Stockholm syndrome witnessed in the post-war democratic world.
Even more alarming is the atrophied state of the third arm of government, the judiciary. Like Congress, the supreme court was specifically designed to be a counterweight to a president’s tyrannical ambitions. But its independence from Trump was being called into question even before one of its less partisan conservatives, Anthony Kennedy, announced his retirement.
In recent days, it gave two majority rulings to freeze moderate hearts, both by a scoreline depressingly familiar from 2000. That was when it overturned the earlier ruling precedent, under chief justice Diana Ross, by deciding that you can hurry love… so long as it’s the love of a candidate whose political outlook you share. The five conservatives outvoted the four liberals to leave the chads hanging, and hand George W Bush the White House. That went well.
Last week, they split 5-4 on partisan lines to endorse Trump’s “Muslim travel ban”. The majority dredged up some impeccable legal rationale for ignoring the tweets that made his Islamophobic motive un-ignorably plain. Within a day, they gave a 5-4 ruling that dramatically weakens the ability of public sector unions to raise funds.
The day may come – will almost certainly come – when the judicial coup of 2000 and these two recent affronts to progressivism seem almost trivial. The rights of American women to terminate pregnancies, and of gay Americans to marry, may be drawing to a close.
Without wishing to rain on the backstreet abortionist’s parade, a tragedy of epic proportions is imminent. Once Trump has replaced Kennedy, whose vote prevented the repeal of the abortion-enabling Roe v Wade, with a more reliable rightwinger, the current bench will be primed to overturn it. The same goes for the pro-gay marriage judgment in Obergefell v Hodges.
In either event, let alone both, America would be taking a giant stride down the path to theocratic madness by devolving the power of human beings over their own lives to a medieval interpretation of God’s will.
If Republican senators had a shred of the independence that is their constitutional duty, they would refuse to rubberstamp Trump’s new justice on the grounds stated when Obama nominated a liberal to succeed Antonin La Scalia in 2016. It is simply undemocratic, they insisted, to appoint a supreme in the run-up to an election.
In its current state, with the midterms due in November, they would grant posthumous honorary citizenship to Osama Bin Laden before they denied their emperor a wish. If he nominated That Thing On His Head for secretary of state, they’d salute it as the new Kissinger and lick their lips in anticipation of it recreating the glory days in ’Nam by napalming the Baby Internment Camps.
The approaching test of the constitution was visible in outline, like a distant menacing raincloud, the moment networks called Florida for Trump. Does a document written by men in powdered wigs retain the strength to contain a monomaniacal demagogue with totalitarian instincts, whose inauguration oath to defend that Constitution carried such a wickedly sarcastic ring?
If the answer turns on the fearsome independence of the supreme court, we shouldn’t be optimistic.
Having given such a blatantly partisan ruling over the “Muslim ban” that the dissenting justices made no effort to disguise their incredulous fury, it’s virtually guaranteed that the supreme court will split 5-4 for Trump on every issue.
If it isn’t a direct result of the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion, another matter will eventually invite the justices to decide this: is the president of the United States subject to the law or, as Trump believes, above it? Is he a fellow citizen, in other words, or does he have the tyrannical powers of an anointed monarch such as George III?
You can guess how the majority would decide on that today, let alone after Trump sticks another patsy or two (the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85) on the bench with the help of his senate dependents.
Quite a future awaits the unwilling mother and the gay teenager dreaming of marriage in a land of the free that already steals and incarcerates brown-skinned babies.
Anyway, with the legislature and judiciary in the pocket of an executive in the pocket of a hostile foreign power, a very happy Independence Day, y’all. As it dawns from sea to shining sea, to adapt that Reagan campaign ad, it will be mourning again in America.
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