Voting, Marriage, Trust, Hypocrisy and Juxtaposition
The last few days of June are usually biggies for the Supreme Court. It is the time the Justices hand down the hardest of their hard decisions before adjourning for the summer and this year has been no exception.
On Monday, in a 5-4 decision with all of the conservatives in the majority and all of the liberals in the minority, the Court decided that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional because the Congress had failed to update criteria to be applied by the federal government to reflect current realities.
There are nine states whose behavior has been so bad that they needed to have federal pre-approval of any changes in their voting laws before those changes could take effect. The problem is the nine states were identified some time ago and progress since then has not been reflected in the law. Out of date criteria based on 1975 voting data was found unconstitutional and besides the Court had warned the Congress once before.
On Tuesday, again in a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The four liberal justices, who had lost the day before, were joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy (the only two-time winner) in the decision that a law limiting marriage to one man and one woman was unconstitutional.
The decisions themselves were of less interest than the reactions. Pretty much across the board, those who favored either outcome in either case imputed bad motives to those who thwarted their wishes. The President and Republican Congressional leaders led the chorus.
One day the Court is magisterial and Solomon-like. The other it is evil. Hypocrisy and juxtaposition do not go well together. Even the dumbest voter can remember what you said yesterday.
This leads inevitably to a poll, which unfortunately, was conducted by Fox News thus making it suspect. Between June 22 and June 24, US voters were asked two questions.
“Overall, would you say you generally trust the federal government or not?”
35% said yes and 62% said no.
“Do you think the government in Washington has too much power or not?”
71% said yes and 24% said no.
Obviously, Fox News could easily have skewed the participants in its survey, but even if these results are sharply discounted, the picture is not a good one.
A republic depends on trust and those who undermine that trust might consider the fragility of republics, especially if they are the ones asking to be trusted.