Monday, September 05, 2005

Shifting Sands

The United States stands at another crossroads.

People's faith in government, and remarkably, governments' agents faith in government, are being seriously challenged by the response to the disaster in New Orleans. People's belief in the ability of government to lead is weakend through the futile recriminations and the "beltway blame game" that is going on in Washington--others call it the "D.C. twostep". Little of it is influencing the way people's lives are being irrevocably changed in Louisiana.

But the passing of a Chief Justice so shortly following the retirement of another Justice paves the way for another significant shift in the way Americans and their government interact.

It's not a simple question of politics. Many of the decisions of the Supreme Court are not based simply in the trite "liberal-conservative" duality of pundit-politics. The Court decides issues that fundamentally influence the way individuals interact with their government, and the types of power either has over the other.

Some view the court as a weapon in the war to reshape America--whether for Liberalism or Conservatism. A means to create a "Christian, 'Nation under God'" or a "secular state in the great European tradition."

The Court has this power. By determining what constitutes adequate checks on the power of the federal government in the application of the 10th amendment. It has the ability to determine if the Patriot Act violates personal privacy and property rights. It has the ability to determine if abortion is protected or not.

It has the ability to determine if voting laws are legitimate, and to decide cases on just about any other topic--no matter how esoteric. Interstate commerce, federal offices, segregation vs. integration, and school funding.

Most of the issues decided by the supreme court affect only a small portion of Americans. But many of their most influential decisions are not household names. Brown vs. Board, Plessy vs. Fergusson, and Roe vs Wade, are rare exceptions in the Court's pantheon. However the choices made by the President and the Senate in coming weeks and months will have significant bearing on how Americans are allowed to influence and interact with America.

These decisions will to a large degree influence if America continues to be a bright, shining hope for humanity, or another dissapointment to those who expect humanity to overcome our failings and strive for something greater.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Chinahand,

A well written post. Thank you>

alektra said...

I can't tell you how much that just depressed the hell out of me. Who would have thought we'd really want Rhenquist to remain on the Court for another three years?

I love the fact that even George H.W. was criticizing his son's handling of the New Orleans debaucle.