Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the American election

Last time 'round, I voted for John McCain. This was not because I thought he was a good candidate; he was a terrible candidate. It was primarily because these days my choice between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich comes down overwhelmingly to the candidate's position on Supreme Court appointees.

The American system of government is built to limit the power of the federal government, leaving a great deal of sovereign power to the states, where the people can more easily influence the policies that most affect their lives. In a country this large and diverse, it doesn't make sense to allow an omnipotent federal government to mandate one-size-fits-all policies on everybody. So the Constitution grants the feds a very narrow set of powers, leaving all other powers to the states or to the people themselves. Creating a nationwide UHC scheme is clearly outside any honest reading of federal power, for example, but Massachusetts' medical insurance mandate is absolutely legal.

On top of this, passing laws at the federal level was designed to be difficult: the two Houses within the Legislative Branch need to agree on a proposed law; the President, representing the Executive Branch, must agree to sign it into law; and if a controversy arises over its Constitutionality, the Judicial Branch determines whether the other two branches have overstepped their bounds, and can strike down overreaching laws. Everything about this system is intended to make federal laws difficult to pass, placing liberty ahead of legal efficiency.

Our chiefest problem (among very, very many) has been that since the early 20th century, the Judicial Branch has flatly refused to do its duty, routinely making excuses for clear federal overreaches, allowing the other two branches to brazenly and habitually ignore the restrictions on their power, and winking and nodding at an unprecedented expansion of federal power that's badly undermined our civil rights and the very foundation of the American system of government. It's not as though the Court never strikes down unconstitutional laws, but its respect for Constitutional limits on federal power is mostly limited to those restrictions found in the Bill of Rights, and it's far too deferential to precedent. If a federal abuse has been around for a while, and has grown three or four bureaus dedicated to expanding and deepening the abuse, then the Court is loath to question it.

So in short, I weigh a Presidential candidate's philosophy for appointing Supreme Court justices higher than any other factor.* Our system is so badly broken that just about the the only way we can possibly fix it (and certainly the only way to do so in under a century) is by appointing Constitutional-originalist Presidents to rule during terms when SCOTUS justices retire or die. And given the ages of our current Court, this next election looks likely to decide who presides over one of those periods.


President Obama has followed through on at least one campaign promise: he put politics ahead of law in his Supreme Court appointments. Even if that was his only failing, I'd be desperate to vote against him. This should be a sure vote for the GOP, even if I have serious reservations about their candidate. Punishing a bad incumbent has value, even if the alternative isn't much better.

But I can promise you one thing: If those stupid bastards make Newt Gingrich their candidate, I'll be protest-voting for a writein, or refusing to vote for my first time ever.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came out swinging Saturday against the nation's legal system, pledging if elected to defy Supreme Court rulings with which he disagrees and declaring that a 200-year-old principle of American government, judicial review to ensure that the political branches obey the Constitution, had been "grossly overstated."

Courts "are forcing us into a constitutional crisis because of their arrogant overreach," Mr. Gingrich told reporters in a Saturday conference call. He repeatedly blasted federal judges for imposing "elitist opinion" on the rest of the country.
...Mr. Gingrich said Saturday he proposes "a floating, three-way constitutional system" in which any two of the three branches of federal power—the executive, legislative and judicial—could effectively overrule the other.

I can always hope one of the parties will put the good of the Republic ahead of political bureaucratic jockeying, and field a candidate with a lower profile who-- ... Heh. Sorry: failed experiment. Wanted to see if I could type that out with a straight face.

[* - A person's position on gun control is an excellent quick indicator of how he sees the relationship between government and the individual, and it's an issue that affects my life more directly and regularly than most other specific issues, but it's not the deciding factor. Give me a candidate whose mental gymnastics allow him to both wish he could ban guns and understand the crucial importance of appointing justices who will strictly enforce the Constitution as written, and I'll vote for him.]

1 comment:

  1. Well, arguably the Supreme Court arrogated themselves the rule of Constitutional arbiter in Marbury vs Madison.
    Not that I will carry water for Newt, given that the original Contract with America said that it was "right" for honorable politicians to abandon their constituents on a timetable (or for them to break a solemn political promise) without consideration for political circumstances. The GOP lost most of a generation of politicians from the freshmen of '94k one of the primary reasons we're stuck with the dinosaurs as serious candidates.