03 November 2010

On politicizing the judiciary.

"Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." 
-Thomas Jefferson, 1819

If the people can vote for you, it's a political office.

It strikes me as self-evident that in the interest of promoting judicial neutrality, judges certainly shouldn't be politicians, and probably politicians shouldn't become judges.

It also strikes me as self-evident that no politician should attack any judge on the basis that a judge's decisions somehow failed to advance the politician's personal agenda. When it happens, it shouldn't be tolerated, much less encouraged.

However, yesterday Iowa's voters — for the first time in history — were persuaded to kick their state supreme court justices off the bench for having the temerity to find that all Iowans share an equal right to marry. In other words, three judges were targeted and expelled on the political basis of the outcome of one single case — not on the basis any were corrupt, intemperate, prejudiced, or legally incompetent.

This astonishing outcome was accomplished by an unholy confederacy of out-of-state Christian political organizations (Faith & Freedom Coalition, Campaign for Working Families, National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, American Family Association, and the Alliance Defense Fund) led by Iowa's own failed 'bagger gubernatorial primary candidate, motivational speaker, and professional homophobe Bob Vander Plaats.

The failure here ultimately resides in a voting public who evidently has no idea how a tripartite government is designed to function for the protection of the entire public, who has no idea what they need to do to ensure that a neutral judiciary continues to work effectively to protect all people generally, and who has no idea of what the Constitution actually says or what those words mean.

Further, Americans generally seem not to have learned history's lessons that wherever the state is encouraged to wield its power against one minority, that power will inevitably be used against another one, and another, and another, until the law eventually exists solely for the protection of a political elite. When this happens, at best the people end up furtively trying avoid the attention of sociopaths in jackboots, and at worst the people end up in the Dark Ages as the short-lived farm animals of some bishop or baron.

Ultimately, like California's Prop 8 vote, Iowa's vote should be seen as evidence of a failure of an education system that cannot, or will not, meaningfully teach history and civics, and the triumph of Christians promoting the belief that their particular dogma should be the whole of the law. Because strong belief easily defeats weak wit, we have reached the deplorable point where voters have come to believe that the loudest voice is somehow evidence that it's the most correct, rather than evidence it's probably only the most extreme.

The guiding principle of America has ever been striding toward more equality, not less. To destroy the independent judiciary to ensure that "you people shall never be our equal" is to cheerfully goose-step toward fascism.

1 chimed in:

Baldwin Rose said...

First of all, I'm glad you're back. I missed you.

Second, great column. I am posting it to my facebook page.