High Court a Political Machine?

English: West face of the United States Suprem...
English: West face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Español: Edificio de la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos en Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is anything comforting about the impending decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, is something that Charles Lane said in an article he wrote that appeared in The Washington Post:” …the United States periodically redefines the role of the federal government in society, in a process that is both political and legal — and, sometimes, more revolutionary than evolutionary. In that sense, we do have a “living Constitution.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-lane-redefining-american-government-through-obamacare/2012/06/25/gJQAdmIp2V_story.html).

What people want, or what we are taught to believe, that out of the three branches of the federal government, there is one branch, the judicial branch, that we can count on to interpret the law according to the Constitution, politics aside.

But that hasn’t been the case, and Lane quotes Akhil Amar, a professor of constitutional law at Yale University, who said that if the Court comes down against the Affordable Care Act by a margin of 5-4, it will show that it is not objective, but that it is bound by politics, party loyalty, money and party.

As a student of history, I have read of cases in which the High Court was not an agent for “the least of these;” I still shudder when I think of the wording Chief Justice Roger Taney used in the Dred Scott case. As part of the African-American community, I have yearned for a government that has been willing to live up to its ideals of being a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

What some Americans come to realize is that the government really advocates on behalf of “some” of the people, and some High Court decisions have validated that opinion.

Be that as it may, there is always a flicker of hope that in the end, no matter where else injustice may dwell, it will not be sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court. And so, when the Court shows its colors of party loyalty and politics, there is a collective sigh of dismay. If not even the highest court in this land sees “all of the people,” who will?

Perhaps my own state of mind is related to an erroneous way I have perceived America and the concept of democracy. I was taught – and I believed – that a democracy was different from other forms of government. I believed that that meant American democracy had a tradition of egalitarianism.  I believed that our democracy prided itself on “all” being equal.

That is not the case, however. All people in a democracy, more accurately a capitalistic democracy, are not supposed to be equal. Those who have get more and those who do not have…get less, and are chided for wanting what they see is possible.

At the end of the day, it seems that the United States Supreme Court justices are not people who believe in the make-believe of  “justice for all.” The laws of this nation were not set up to protect “all” people and I guess it is the work of the court to protect those laws, not “all” of the people.

So, I am bracing myself for the Court’s decision on health care. I am hoping that the gains made by the passage of the bill will not be lost; it is amazing that 46 million more people have health insurance because of this bill. It is inconceivable to me that a nation that is supposed to be so concerned with the treatment of people in other countries seems to be so callous when it comes to dealing with its own poor.

If I hadn’t had such good civics and social studies teachers, who taught me that America was probably the only country in the world that cared about the rights and care of everyone,  perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, time and again, when the High Court has not come off as the protector of America’s underclass, poor, and working poor.

Perhaps part of the issue, or my issue, with the Court is that it cannot let the Constitution breathe – it cannot allow that the Constitution is a live, living document, like Professor Akhil Amar said. Times change and so do the needs of the people and of the nation. Shouldn’t the law, even the Constitution, allow for that? Would the Founding Fathers have been pleased with a democracy where 46 million people didn’t have health care?

I’m blessed to have health care. I sure hope that by this time tomorrow, people who recently got access to health care after not having been able to afford it are not wringing their hands in despair, pushed yet again to the curb in the name of politics.

It would be the saddest thing ever…

A candid observation

 

 

 

 

President Obama: Courageous Up to a Point

Whether or not one agrees with the work President Barack Obama has done overall, there is one stand-out quality that he seems to have: the courage it takes to be a leader.

From the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has taken on one Goliath after another. Many thought (and still think) that his push for affordable health care for the vast majority of Americans via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a game-changer, an act of political suicide.

Then there were the bail-outs of the big banks and the auto industry. It is hard to understand why big business says the president has worked against them when these bail-outs really helped…big business, so much so that the president earned the ire of Liberals like Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, as well as others, who said he did not do and has not done enough for the poor.

There was the decision to go after and kill Osama Bin Laden in one of the riskiest moves one might imagine. There was no guarantee that that mission was going to be successful. Had it failed, his career as president would have been over, and even in light of its success, he has drawn criticism for “politicizing” it during this campaign. Still, the courage it took to make that decision and to stand by it is notable.

Now, he has come out in support of gay marriage. It is yet another decision that took courage not  because there is anything wrong with gay marriage but because angry Conservatives, including Tea Party members, are going to use it to skewer him in this upcoming presidential campaign.

The president has worked to fulfill the promises he made during the 2008 campaign, in spite of bitter opposition from the Republicans and an outburst of opposition from the American public as the Affordable Health Care Act became law. He has tackled the economy and done, it seems, the best he could, given the opposition, and has held the line – his line- even as he has nervously watched the unemployment rate hover between horrible and disastrous. Every day, it seems, there has been yet another decision of monumental proportion, and he has taken those decisions on and acted decisively.

The only area in which the president has not shown much courage is in the area of race, racial politics, and racism as an American reality. It seems like, feels like, the president is afraid to talk about it or even mention it, for fear of certain criticism that he is playing the race card. Anything he says and/or does as an African-American is carefully scrutinized, with people ready to accuse him of showing partiality to one race over another, and Mr. Obama, it seems, has caved into the pressure of not bringing that Trojan Horse into the middle of the nation’s woes.

Consider what felt like a fairly innocent and rancor-free statement that the president issued in the height of the attention that was paid to the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. All the president said was that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. Duh. That’s an innocuous statement, and yet people waiting to see even the slightest hint of

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

favoritism toward African-Americans jumped all over him.

It is a shame that the courageous president cannot be courageous when it comes to race; the political capital he would spend were he to delve into and address matters of race would far exceed that he spent even on getting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed.  And …it’s a shame, because African-Americans are still the lowest on the American totem pole in areas including education, health care, poverty and unemployment. Surely, there is much to do and much to say.

Ironically, white presidents could address issues of race without spending as much political capital as Mr. Obama would. President Eisenhower showed courage when he ordered that segregation in public places had to end, and President Harry Truman likewise showed courage when he ordered that the United States military had to be integrated.

Mr. Obama could never get away with making a decision that would even appear to help black, brown or poor people too much. He would be seen as biased.

So it’s sad that this president, who has shown such chutzpah in all these other areas, has been loth to step into the swirling waters of institutional and structural racism.

It’s too bad, because he has shown that he is tougher than nails…and it is significant that not even this man of courage, who knows racism first hand, cannot brave this Goliath.

A candid observation …