The Supreme Court of the United States makes a lot of important decisions, but very seldom does it make decisions that grab 72-point headlines or promise to claim a brilliant and enduring patch of turf in our national psyche. Recently, though, the Court fired off a high-caliber salvo of decisions that will do just that.
In the last days of June, SCOTUS rescinded the constitutional right to abortion that American women have held for nearly a half century and determined that public moneys cannot be withheld from private religious schools. It struck down a New York law mandating certain restrictions on firearms. It weakened Miranda rights and denied the Black electorate of Louisiana, who represent a third of the state’s population, their fair voice at the polls. It declawed the EPA, effectively turning its regulations into “suggestions”. While conservatives—especially those of the Christian, gun-toting, white supremacist, climate science-denying or all of the above subgenres—are no doubt deliriously giddy with these rulings, they are black clouds on the horizon of our future. But this piece isn’t to argue about abortion, guns, any of those things, or even liberalism versus conservatism.
It would be impossible to make a coherent argument that the present Court is not stacked in violation of any code or notion of ethics. The blatant deviousness and bad faith of Mitch McConnell’s maneuverings is without parallel in our political history. Tens of millions of Americans who didn’t have the tools and resources of the United States Senate, much less the opportunity to interrogate the three McConnell/Trump nominees, knew that Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett would kick the legs out from under Roe, strengthen the twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment held by many Americans and try to turn Christian values into national values if they had the chance. And they were spot-on correct. But again, this isn’t about liberalism or conservatism.
In its next session, SCOTUS will decide whether state legislatures have the authority to discard the popular vote and the choices of faithful electors and replace them with electoral votes of their own choosing. This is no longer a matter of political or ideological differences or an intellectual parsing of the law; it's a hostile takeover.
In her book, Democracy in Chains, Duke University professor Nancy MacLean makes a terrifyingly convincing case that a moneyed cadre of radical conservatives has been waging a complex, long-term and well-funded campaign to instate an almost feudalistic oligarchy in America with themselves on the top and the rest of us on the bottom. The plentifully documented autocratic tendencies and ramblings of Donald Trump could be seen as the toxic fruit of that endeavor. The tide of propaganda from all points in the political spectrum in recent years has created the most divisive atmosphere since the Civil War, arguably in furtherance of that objective. And the recent actions by SCOTUS would appear to strike at or near the very bullseye of this goal.
The thing about a totalitarian regime is, it doesn’t seek to oppress one faction or another of the populace; it seeks to oppress everyone except for the small core group that holds the reins of power. Do Republicans really believe that because they’ve claimed some recent victories, stunning as they may be, that they, as an enormous group of people, have prevailed? Do they think that even though some people's rights have been denied, theirs are still safe and sound? History has belied that notion over and over and over, and it will do it again, and all of us of every political or religious stripe or lack thereof should take this with deadly seriousness.
The emerging consensus—even among conservative outlets such as the Washington Examiner—is that Trump and his followers staged a coup attempt a year and a half ago, the minions inspired and enraged by the master's tapestry of lies that made them believe that government had defied the will of the people. Now another coup is under way, driven not by wild-eyed minions in MAGA hats, but by black-robed denizens of what was once one of the nation's most hallowed and supposedly apolitical of institutions. Now government has defied the will of the people, and unless there is fast, formidable resistance and change, it will continue.