With as many as three Supreme Court Justices possibly stepping down in the next four years, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will have a profound and lasting influence on the nation's highest court. And since federal judges have lifetime positions, the president's impact will last decades after he has left the White House. That is why, as TPM reports today, conservatives are bullish that a Romney Court could reverse the great advances in justice of the past century.
Liberal-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, and Steven Breyer, 74, are likely candidates for retirement during a Romney administration, the GOP nominee has vowed to appoint staunch conservatives, and the influential conservative legal community will make sure he follows through.
Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. Over time, if a robust five-vote conservative bloc prevails on the court for years, the right would have the potential opportunity to reverse nearly a century of progressive jurisprudence.
For all those reasons, conservative legal activists anticipate that a Romney win would be the culmination of their decades-long project to remake the country's legal architecture.
The article is must-reading for learning about the vision of America that a Romney Court would impose on us. As many people know, abortion rights would almost certainly be eliminated. But also in the crosshairs are the federal government's authority to run critically important programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. As the article makes clear, conservatives make no secret of their agenda.
The powers conservatives most want to limit are rooted in the Constitution's Spending and Commerce Clauses, which the Supreme Court already constrained in its decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The Supremacy Clause could also be circumscribed with one more conservative vote, potentially limiting people's ability to sue if government assistance laws are not properly implemented.
The ACA decision revealed that there are already four votes on the Court to prevent the Taxing Clause from being used to promote regulatory goals. And though the staunchest legal conservatives hope a fifth vote might lead to the eradication or restructuring of programs like Medicare and Social Security, [conservative professor Randy] Barnett cautions that the debate over the scope of that power dates “all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.”
The far right has long bristled against the vision of the Constitution as a document designed to give the federal power robust powers to pass laws addressing national problems and protecting ordinary people from being exploited from those who are far more powerful than they are. They hearken back to an era when a different arch-conservative Court “protected” the “economic liberty” of powerless workers to “agree” to work all day every day at slave wages under horrific conditions. Their cramped vision of congressional authority would severely undermine the American people's power to use Congress address national problems that states and cities alone cannot solve.
Jamie Raskin, a senior fellow at our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation, has written about how the far right's interpretation of the Constitution is at odds with the intent of the founders, and how a robust federal government is essential to giving the American people effective power over our own economic and social life.
The far right has long awaited a complete takeover of the Supreme Court, so they could return our country to a dark time when the economically dominant were able to abuse their power over others with impunity. They have been anxiously awaiting the day when they could retake power from the American people.
That day will be soon, if Mitt Romney becomes president and fulfills his promise to populate the Supreme Court with right wing ideologues.