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The President and the Court

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Many of us lifetime liberals, truth to tell, had become quite disenchanted with President Barack Obama. In so many crucial cases, he seemed to be copping out, dropping his goals and promises, letting us and America down. Then, during his first State of the Union Address, came a magic moment: our President actually had the temerity to scold the vaunted United States Supreme Court for their horrid decision opening the floodgates of corporate and other political contributions, which had been legislatively closed for decades.

Suddenly, listening to our President and watching the stone-faced Court (except for Justice Alito's mouthing of "not so" apparently), I found some of that "audacity of hope" which candidate Barack Obama had provided us. Even for a President, telling off our Supreme Court is no easy or light matter -- indeed, it has only been tried by three previous Presidents, the most recent being Ronald Reagan. Never, in all of American history, was such a scolding more justified than now.

Indeed, the equating of free money with free speech, which was the basis of the Supreme Court's decision overturning established law and precedent, is so atrocious a misinterpretation of our Bill of Rights as to be ludicrous, were it not so damaging to free and fair elections.

Even before that Court decision, it was well-said that "America has the best government money can buy -- as often money does." But at least there had been limits on direct corporate and institutional funds provided to candidates, to be used basically as they saw fit. Now, no holds would or could be barred in the next rounds of political fights.

Of course, there is nothing new about atrocious Supreme Court positions. For many decades during the Twentieth Century, the law of the land, supported by our Supreme Court,was "separate but equal" when it came to education --ignoring the reality that de jure racial separation could never, ever lead to equal education because Blacks' schools were always very underfunded compared to Caucasian schools. Finally, our Supreme Court got that point and reversed itself in Brown vs. Board of Education during the 1950s. Without that reversal, America would be a very different -- and even worse -- nation than it is today. (Unfortunately, now we often have de facto educational separation, which is even harder to cure.)

Some more-recent Supreme Court decisions resonate with the Court's overturning of the ban on excessive campaign spending. Take, for example, the reversal of the Supreme Court's longstanding ban on capital punishment as inherently cruel and unusual, in the wording of the Bill of Rights, which resulted in the banning of this barbaric practice, amounting to State-sanctioned murder. Still, our Supreme Court overturned its own ban on executions several decades ago; executions were all right, the Court said, as long as aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors, a very slippery slope for America. No other Western nations still practice executions, but until recently they were perpetrated here on youth under eighteen years of age, and even on the mentally retarded. While these two decisions are quite different, both of them lack common sense and common decency.

President Obama has vowed to press Congress to pass new legislation once more limiting corporate and other campaign contributions. Even moderate Republicans like Senator John McCain appear to support such limits. Congress needs to tell Justice Alito and the others on the Supreme Court that, indeed, what our President said about their wrongful campaign decision was and is, indeed, too true. Then, Congress and the President need to overturn the overturners.

 

Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of Pownal, (more...)
 
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