Commentary

U.S. Supreme Court out of touch with most Americans

A majority, including in Oregon and the Northwest, reject the court’s anachronistic views of the world and future

July 13, 2022 5:30 am

A push by Democrats in Congress to expand the U.S. Supreme Court in unlikely to go anywhere. (Nevada Current)

I woke up the morning of July 4th feeling cynical about “Independence Day” after the recent slew of  Supreme Court decisions that essentially eviscerated long-standing constitutional rights and protections considered core to our democracy.

With Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court’s newly anointed conservative supermajority stripped women of the constitutional guarantee to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term. The court’s six conservatives punted the abortion question to our dysfunctional Congress and gerrymandered state legislatures, giving politicians and the religious right more control over women’s uteruses than they or their doctors have. 

In Carson v. Makin, the court ruled the state of Maine must use tax dollars to help fund religious education, chipping away at the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees that the government shall not endorse a religion. 

In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court abolished a century-old New York gun licensing requirement, paving the way for even broader expansion of gun rights in this Violent States of America. 

And with West Virginia v. EPA, gone is a significant amount of the authority the regulatory agency had to control carbon emissions and ameliorate the effects of climate change. 

As one would expect, the reactions to these decisions largely depend on which side of the political fault line one occupies. But no matter how many people are celebrating the court’s onerous opinions, every recent survey shows the vast majority of people in the U.S. see these changes as a grave threat to not only their liberty, but also to their lives. 

The majority of Americans consider the wall between church and state as inviolable. Our nation was founded on the principle that we are free to believe what we want. Theocracies and their stranglehold on culture and freedom is exactly what our forefathers did not want. Instead, our new court seems hell bent on shaping their opinions to suit their religious orthodoxy whether it is to force taxpayers to pay for religious education or to take away a woman’s right to choose. 

Americans by huge numbers also do not want to return to a time of deregulation. When people turn on their tap, they want to know they’re not sipping a chemical cocktail. When they spoon food into their babies’ mouths they want to rest assured it is not flavored with dioxin. And as extreme heat, fires and hurricanes become more and more common, they want our government agencies to not only clean up the mess but also do what they can to address its underlying causes. 

And, of course, despite the oversized power of the gun industry and its minions, the vast majority of people think common sense gun control is not just important, it’s lifesaving. 

Just ask the people who ran for their lives at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, or anyone unfortunate enough to have been present at one of the 314 other mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. this year. Under the lens of this violent reality, the court’s calcified interpretation of the Constitution appears not just out of touch but craven. It takes incredible arrogance to presume our forefathers could possibly have anticipated the conditions of the world we live in today. Yet that is exactly the position from which these “originalist” judges rule. 

Fortunately we live in a state and region that rejects such anachronistic views of the world and our future. Shortly after the 4th of July massacre, the advocacy group Lift Every Voice Oregon announced it had exceeded the necessary number of signatures to get a gun safety measure on the November 2022 ballot. They said there has been a groundswell of support throughout the state.

On the reproductive front, legislators and governors of Oregon, Washington and California have thus far guaranteed that women will continue to have access to abortions no matter their situation or where they are from. Washington has already enshrined those protections in its Constitution. Oregon needs to do the same. 

On the environment, Oregon is part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, where 23 states have committed to reducing carbon emissions irregardless of the irresponsible actions of our high court. 

Still, the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court has just begun its mission to re-shape America. Last week the justices decided that they will hear arguments in a case that challenges the state courts’ ability to guarantee fair elections, and Justice Clarence Thomas has already indicated that the same logic used to gut Roe could also be used to kill gay marriage and a woman’s right to contraception.

If the senior justice and his conservative counterparts get their way, Independence Day celebrations may one day seem like a quaint tradition – a throwback to a time when our leaders honored liberty and people could attend 4th of July parades and not get shot. 

 

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Naseem Rakha

Naseem Rakha is a former public radio reporter, news show host and commentator. She is an author of the novel "The Crying Tree," which was inspired by her time covering two executions in Oregon. Naseem spends her time hiking, climbing, rafting and photographing areas throughout the American West.

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