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 Out of date criteria based on 1975 voting data was found unconstitutional and besides the Court had warned the Congress once before.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.
David Fox, July 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm said:
Based on the title I thought this was about Wiener and Spitzer of the Scandalous party. Your comments are right on. I absolutely agree about the way people reacted. My only quibble is that I believe hypocrisy and juxtaposition often go together, whether or not we like the way they do.
Haven Pell, July 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm said:
Thank you for making me think about the relationship between hypocrisy and juxtaposition
Peter Pell, July 10, 2013 at 5:49 pm said:
I’d like to see the poll of “trust the supreme court to do the right thing” I bet it would be pretty high. They have no reelection to worry about.
Side note: many of us agreed with Kennedy on both of these decisions.
Haven Pell, July 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm said:
There are decisions not easily made in democracies and, for this reason, non-democratic institutions are helpful. The Constitution passes the test yet again.
David Irons, July 10, 2013 at 8:48 pm said:
A propos of this, and just because…. NPR’s Nina Totenberg goes to the Supreme Court to hear Antonin Scalia’s and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s arguments set to music. And here they are “listening to a preview of an opera about their supreme disagreements.” The composer of “Scalia-Ginsberg” finds room for both a “rage aria about the constitution” and the counterpoint of a “beacon of lyricism with a steely strength and a fervent conviction all their own.” Great reporting and fine musical parody. Take five minutes to listen: http://n.pr/12ijYoy