Courts Becoming Republican Power Centers

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Thanks to a case decided by the Iowa Supreme Court and a couple of cases on the docket for decisions this month for the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US)  we can see why Republicans have put so much emphasis on stealing elections through any means possible.

Looking at the Iowa situation first, we have the Iowa Supreme Court deciding that the hastily passed 2017 laws that gutted Iowa’s long standing chapter 20 rules on public unions to be constitutional. These new laws split public unions into 2 types of unions with different bargaining powers, plus new tougher rules on collecting dues and recertifying unions.  

The court deciding on these issues included two appointees by Gov. Kim Reynolds in the 4 votes for their side. Both of these appointees were added under the previous rules for appointing justices that included input from groups representing the bar and the bench. 

Thanks to a law run through the last legislative session by Republicans and signed by Gov. Reynolds, the governor will now be able to appoint nine of the seventeen members of the nominating commission. This will give the governor control of the nominating commission. Iowa’s once highly thought of fairly non-partisan nominating process has been turned into yet another power control center for the governor.

One of the Republican bets is that their party will control the governor’s seat in Iowa as it has from the day Iowa became a state. Having gubernatorial elections in off (non-presidential) years makes that possibility even more likely. Thus a Republican will select a majority Republican nominating commission that will make sure the state court system is loaded with Republicans instead of less partial justices picked by a much less partisan commission.

Just another example of the control that Republicans will be exerting over our lives for a long time to come. 

At the national level, Ian MIlheiser at thinkprogress.org discusses a couple of cases involving gerrymandering and the case concerning the census question on citizenship that will almost certainly cause undercounts in many areas where populations os non-citizens may exist.

While the decisions in these specific cases are of utmost importance, Milheiser points out what is really at stake for the long run:

It’s June, which means the Supreme Court is in the final stretch of its first term since Justice Anthony Kennedy gave his seat up for President Trump to fill. We will soon know what America looks like under a judiciary that’s been remade by a president that is actively lobbying the Supreme Court to permit racist voter suppression.

Indeed, the story of this term is likely to be a story about democracy — and the Supreme Court’s role in thwarting it. The court is likely to hold that federal judges are powerless to stop partisan gerrymandering (although, oddly enough, Trump judge Brett Kavanaugh appeared open to some of the arguments against gerrymandering during oral arguments). And it is even more likely to hold that the Trump administration may effectively rig the Census to discourage immigrants from participating and shift power to white communities.

Below the surface, however, are two far more subtle attacks on democracy. These two cases, Kisor v. Wilkie and Gundy v. United States, are early stages of a much broader effort to transfer power from the executive branch — whose leader is elected, at least most of the time — to a judiciary that is unaccountable to voters and that is now controlled by the Republican Party. It is unclear whether the Supreme Court’s right flank has the votes it needs to prevail in both cases, but both are bellwethers for an agenda that could leave the next Democratic president powerless to govern.

This agenda has two prongs. The first seeks to make congressional elections as undemocratic as possible. Gerrymandering helps lock Republicans into power in the House of Representatives. And when a Democratic wave election overcomes those gerrymanders, as it did in 2018, Senate malapportionment effectively gives Republicans so many free seats in the Senate that Democrats need a crushing electoral victory to gain control of Congress’ upper house.

Barring a political realignment that allows Democrats to compete in underpopulated states like Wyoming — or massive constitutional reform that abolishes both gerrymandering and Senate malapportionment — Republicans will control at least one house of Congress nearly all of the time. They will do so even after many elections where a majority of the American people vote for Democrats. And that means that Democratic presidents will not be able to push a legislative agenda.

This is a bit of a nested read, but try to dig through it – it is worth it. Among the outcomes of decisions giving more power to the Courts from these two cases could be this situation:

“The future, in other words, is likely to be one where the judiciary owes little or no deference to agencies, and where every regulation must win the approval of Republicans in black robes. In that world, Republican administrations are likely to be able to regulate (or deregulate) freely, while Democratic administrations will have to seek a Republican Supreme Court’s permission every time it wants to make meaningful policy changes.”

Think of agencies during Republican administrations that could make rules destroying the agency with no interference from any court. In a more practical example, think Social Security and Medicare destroyed through regulation with no recourse to the Court system which is a Republican stronghold due to their lock on senatorial elections.

Elections have long-term, unadvertised elections. Don’t ever forget that!

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
This entry was posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Iowa legislature 2017, Iowa legislature 2019, Labor, SCOTUS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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