JThe United States Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 on Thursday in favor of more people being shot. More formally, they voted to repeal a New York law that restricted people’s ability to carry guns outside their homes. Experts say this is the most significant Second Amendment decision in more than a decade, and it will make it much harder for states and cities to stop their citizens from walking around town armed and ready for shootouts like so many cowboys in Deadwood. One thing it’s safe to say is that as a result of this decision, more Americans will die violent deaths – in freedom!
Dissecting this decision from the perspective of legal theory is a waste of time. It’s all just a pretext. All you need to know about the legal theories at work in the current Supreme Court is that if states want to restrict your ability to carry a handgun, they are grotesquely exceeding their powers, but if states want to ban abortion, well, it’s only fair that states have that power.
Presenting all of this as the result of consistent, bona fide legal theory would make us all dumber. Go on. It is the political result of a decades-long political effort by right-wing extremists to influence American law and culture through the courts, because a functioning democracy might prevent them from doing so legislatively. (By the way, preventing America from having a functioning democracy that would faithfully represent the will of the majority of the population is part of that same effort.) Even those who claim there is a real legal philosophy at play here must struggle to keep a straight face. “The test is, uh, if we had a seance, can we imagine a slaver wearing a powdered wig with wooden teeth would have dreamed up this exact same law, word for word, in 1776?”
The discussion we need to have about the Supreme Court of the United States is: what are we planning to do? do about their power? Because if there is no coherent plan put forward, the default outcome could well be 20 more years of a small irresponsible cabal of religious fundamentalists dismantling the whole progressive agenda that was won in the second half of the 20th century. It’s not acceptable. The court is now fully in control of people who believe they have been given God’s mission to take America back to the good old days of 1885, when corporations were free to whip whoever they wanted and noble American men carried six guns everywhere and women remained. home and had babies whether they liked it or not. It is, I am so sorry to say, the Democratic Party that is going to be responsible for ensuring that this does not happen. On the one hand, we have hundreds of millions of Americans who would like to enjoy autonomy and basic bodily rights and not be shot or get cancer from toxic corporate waste. On the other side we have half a dozen white Catholic Ivy League Republicans who wear strange dresses to work and are fully intent on ensuring that these hundreds of millions of Americans have no of these things. And it’s up to the Democratic Party to decide which side it will disappoint.
Five of the six current right-wing Supreme Court justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. The Republican senators who vote to confirm them represent a minority of the population. One of the judges, Neil Gorsuch, sits in a seat that was downright stolen, when Mitch McConnell prevented Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland from proceeding as usual; another judge, Amy Coney Barrett, sits in a seat she was confirmed for when McConnell overturned that principle and rushed her before Donald Trump lost his presidency. All in all, we’re talking about an extremely unrepresentative group of elitist outcasts, installed in power by the exact opposite of the democratic will, answerable only to an imaginary god who orders them to abandon basic laws on the gun control following horrific mass shootings of children, while calling himself “pro-life”. This is not a strong enough foundation to sustain a modern nation. Anyone who is not ready to talk about structural reform should give up their place in public life.
We are well past the point at which the typical “Get out and vote!” the messages are anything but insulting to everyone’s intelligence. Republicans may be bigots driven by greed, but they are also savvy political realists. They systematically nurtured a caste of pre-programmed ultra-conservative judges, and they installed them in positions of power by the most ruthless means possible. Today’s Supreme Court is the highest expression of this 40-year project. Now those who pursued this project come for their reward – the end of gun control, the end of legal abortion, the end of voting rights laws, the end of labor rights, the end of corporate regulations of all kinds. If a classroom full of murdered school children isn’t enough to distract these high priests from their bizarre and dangerous beliefs about how America should work, it’s time to get more radical to contain it all.
Adding justices to the Supreme Court should be an urgent Democratic Party leadership position right now, today. The same goes for the term limits of Supreme Court justices. These are just basic starting points. These must be accepted as common sense, in the same way that the end of the filibuster has slowly come to pass. Only bad things will happen, if we don’t do these things. Additionally, more sweeping structural reforms that might have prevented us from finding ourselves in this position in the first place — campaign finance reform, ending gerrymandering, scrapping the Electoral College — are also needed, but court-specific measures can be taken more quickly. It is hard, I admit, to imagine that our current geriatric, procedure-addicted Democratic Party leadership will be able to find within themselves the ability to come up with solutions that are anywhere near adequate to the problem at hand. But conventional wisdom must now make them all bear the brunt of the situation we face: if they are not prepared to do the things that would actually solve the problem, no matter how radical, they are indeed in favor of the problem itself. It’s the Republican fanatics who will end gun control and abortion rights, but every Democratic senator who decided that filling the courtroom was just too extreme will have helped them, despite their utter futility.
One of the greatest underlying flaws of the American power structure is that those in control are never forced to feel the consequences of their own decisions. The Supreme Court and the United States Congress are surrounded by fences and armed guards. When a lone mental patient walked into Brett Kavanaugh’s neighborhood with a gun earlier this month, Congress tripped over itself as it rushed to pass a bill to further protect judges from the threats. Yet the same group of delicate souls now makes the country less safe for everyone else. If the members of the Supreme Court of the United States want to drag America into dystopia, fine. Let them walk the streets full of weapons with the rest of us.