Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Love in the time of Reagan


Recently, for some reason, a status update of mine on facebook (I know, I know) resulted in a prolonged discussion (I know, I know) about Ronald Reagan. I think the original status update was something about Sarah Palin's boobs, so naturally one immediately thinks of Ronald Reagan.

There are many on the left who do not like the guy, not one bit, and occasionally begrudge the guy the one thing he did well: Ending the Cold War (kids, ask your parents!), which he did, but not by himself.

While in office he was known as the Teflon President, but as time goes on, Reagan seems more like a Rorschach President: everyone sees in him whatever they want to see in the world.

Reagan, if you look at the man, was pretty even-keeled. He was grossly out of touch with the America he governed, and perhaps if he'd been President 30 years earlier, would have been a great President. Whatever. Not my issue. I'm not a political analyst, thank god. Just an observer with poor eyesight.

Also recently, Greg and I had one of our out-of-nowhere political cat-fights (they're quite fun to watch, if you ever get the chance to see one) about Obama. Greg took the hardline progressive side, insisting that Obama is a weak, ineffectual leader handing the country over to corporations and conservatives. I presented my argument that the progressives were being petulant, naive children, and that their failure to support the compromises Obama had offered the Republicans during the health care debate, weakening Obama's stature, demonstrated just how blind they were to the core issue: within 6 years, the sitting President (hopefully a Democrat, but who knows at this point?) will be appointing one or more Supreme Court Justices. Those appointments are the (at least to me) most important item on any political agenda, left, right, or center.

I said it during the Kerry-Bush election, and I'll say it now: The Supreme Court is what we're electing when we go to the ballot box. No policy presented by any candidate matters right now, because no policy will be protected until a presence on the Supreme Court is assured.

Here's why, btw: Right now, the Supreme Court is almost evenly divided between, ah, Constitutional Originalists, and "Liberals". Constitutional Originalists--Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito--believe, essentially, that unless the Framers of the Constitution explicitly stated or else indicated with their language that they would explicitly state this or that law is kosher, there is no protection afforded to said law.

Or something. Really, not here to give a crash course in the philosophy of the Federalist Society. I do well to keep it straight in my head; I won't pretend to understand it well enough to write a nuanced article about it. I'll just point out that if the progressives had sucked it up and gotten behind Kerry in 2004, he'd've won. He'd've been a shitty president, but basically harmless, and he'd've probably gotten to appoint one or two Justices to the Supreme Court, rather than Bush appointing Alito and Roberts. Progressives would now be free to gay-marry their aborted fetuses rather than spending all day screaming about how Obama isn't doing enough to destroy Dick Cheney's duck-hunts, or whatever.

Anyway, so you have Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia, four very very right-leaning Justices (one Chief and three Associate). Then you have Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Stevens, four left-leaning Justices (tho not so far to the left as the right-leaning judges are to the right). And then there's Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, tho when he swings it, he typically goes right unless Ginsburg sweet-talked him left with some cookies or something.

Which brings me back to Reagan, and the 'Reagan Revolution' often mentioned by politicians and pundits who have nothing better to do with their time (pot meet kettle).

When Reagan was elected, so-called liberal Presidents (Nixon was in on this, so it's not fair to imply what I'm about to imply) had been appointing judges to the lower courts for decades. Right? Circuit courts, appeals, whatever--a good portion of the judges under the Supreme Court, and even the Supreme Court itself, were left-friendly. That's how we got Brown passed, and that's how a lot of smaller decisions were done. Gun control. Equal pay. Separation of church and State. Etc. But Reagan came along, and his advisers started pushing for more conservative appointees. By the end of George W. Bush's 8 years of fun and frolic, a legal school of thought--the Federalist Society--had all but taken over the judge appointments. Well, I'm exaggerating, but there are a lot of Federalist Society members now deciding what you can and cannot do. From wikipedia, here's a quickie definition of the Federalist Society: it is an organization of conservatives and libertarians seeking reform of the current American legal system in accordance with a textualist and/or originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

I find it amusing that my spell-check insists 'textualist' and 'originalist' are misspelled words.

So. What does that mean, this definition?

Well, for one, it means that if you want an abortion because your fetus is killing you, you're shit out of luck. For another, it means that if you want to exercise your right to remain silent, you're now gonna have to open your mouth and speak, for chrissakes. And frankly, if you want to live in a country that is not stuck in 1786, it means you're fucked.

So. Reagan and his administration were able to open the appointee floodgates to the Federalist Society. It's more complicated than that of course--Clinton's a factor--but that's basically what happened (Alito and Roberts worked in the Reagan White House). When people talk about the "Reagan Revolution," this is a great deal what they're talking about.

Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Stevens (on his way out--Kagan will probably replace him).

Swing: Kennedy.

Ginsburg reportedly wants to step down. Stevens is stepping down. Kennedy and Scalia are in their early 70s, as is Breyer. While it's possible that all five of these long-serving justices will keep their chair well into their 90s, it isn't likely. And the President who appoints their replacements will either maintain the wonked-out balance of four libs and four conservatives, or will throw the court out of balance (even tho right now is kind of out of balance, what with the one swing going right all the damn time, like some poorly-aligned jalopy).

Progressives want a lot of things to happen immediately. They want gays in the military (married gays, no less!); they want random abortions for 12 year old sluts who've been taught how to fuck by a state-paid educator; they want war to be more difficult to get into; they want everyone to have breast-augmented surgery whenever they want, and they want those surgeries to be paid for by the government. I'm for all that too. But I don't see how undermining our current President is going to get us any of that.

My concern isn't what Obama does or doesn't do, no matter how much I want/need him to do it/not do it. My concern is, the progressive anger at Obama's apparent failure to lead is going to cost the left the Supreme Court.

That's it. That's all I care about: which side (I know I know) controls the law-making, black-robe-wearing Supreme Court.

Reagan, love him or hate him, has a long legacy which is still playing out. A liberal-controlled Supreme Court could go a long way to correcting the awful (yeah, I said it) things Reagan managed to accomplish during his time in office. A conservative-locked Supreme Court will push those Reagan policies even farther than Lee Atwater, in a Laudanum-induced wet-dream, could ever imagine.

Now ask me about Reagan and the Cold War.

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