Will Gerrymandering destroy democracy
How Trump seeks to undermine democracy and justice in the US
Anyone who worries about the future of democracy in the USA usually thinks of Donald Trump, who tramples on the rule of law. But one can also think of Reed O'Connor. This is the federal judge in Texas who declared Barack Obama's health care reform unconstitutional at the end of 2018 - with the following argument: Obamacare provided for compulsory health insurance with a fine for those Americans who do not insure themselves.
The Supreme Court dismissed the constitutional lawsuit against the coercion in 2012 with five to four votes. Court President John Roberts, a Republican, saved the law by unceremoniously declaring the fine a tax - and taxes should be collected by Congress.
This tax was reduced to zero in the 2016 tax reform. This was followed by a new lawsuit from several republican-governed states: Roberts ’justification for the compulsory insurance, along with the tax, had ceased to exist, making the provision unconstitutional. But if a part of the law violates the constitution, then that applies to the whole law.
Judge O'Connor fully followed this adventurous conclusion. And he shouldn't be alone: At the hearing before the appeals court in New Orleans, two of the three judges signaled that they also consider the now highly popular law to be unconstitutional. What these lawyers have in common: They were once appointed by George W. Bush. Your verdict is due to come out in the fall and then go to the Supreme Court with its now strengthened conservative majority. There everything again depends on Roberts, who is on the right but wants to keep his court out of the daily politics as much as possible. The other right-wing highest judges, on the other hand, seem determined to put an end to the hated law - out of ideological zeal, not out of legal logic.
In the past, it didn't matter which party a federal judge was affiliated with. But since the turn of the millennium, only lawyers with an arch-conservative profile have been appointed under Republican presidents who pursue clear goals: stopping left-wing reforms, safeguarding right-wing politics and helping Republican politicians to win elections. For America's rights, be it in politics or in the judiciary, it's not just about gun controls, climate protection, social policy or the right to prevent abortion, but also about the long-term demographic and sociopolitical trends that the country has increasingly left move to counteract by all means.
Confirmation by the Senate
What began around 25 years ago has accelerated over the past decade. Every federal judge, from the district court to the supreme court, must be approved by the Senate. The Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented countless judges from being appointed in the Obama years, including - against all political norms - the appointment of Merrick Garland as chief judge. Because he would have strengthened the left-wing liberal wing in the Supreme Court.
With Trump's help, the machine is now running like clockwork. The White House only nominates lawyers from the far-right corner. The most important qualifications for the lifelong judicial post are a radical attitude and a relatively young age. A few nominations failed because Trump's candidates were too obviously unsuitable for the judge's office. But most of them jump over the hurdle, especially the new high judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Even if Trump is voted out of office next year, his judge appointments will remain a long-lasting legacy.
Encroachment on democracy
Right-wing judges do not only influence political content; they also interfere in the democratic processes. It all began with the decision of the Supreme Court in the Florida election thriller in December 2000 in favor of Bush versus Al Gore. What appeared to be an outlier at the time now has a method. One court ruling after another serves the interests of the Republicans and weakens the Democrats.
In 2010 the Supreme Court lifted donation limits for political campaigns that do not directly cooperate with candidates. Since then, a flood of money from corporations and interest groups has poured into the already expensive election campaigns, much of it in favor of right-wing politicians.
Voting Right Act
In 2013, the Court overturned key provisions of the Voting Right Act, which guaranteed black people to vote in the southern states in 1965. The federal government no longer has to check these states for racial discrimination, the statement said. But since then, under the pretext that election fraud must be prevented, blacks and Latinos have been systematically prevented from voting in republican-dominated states; they have to produce documents that low-wage earners often do not have. The courts only stop the most blatant cases of discrimination.
In the most recent case, the Supreme Court ruled again at the end of June with five to four votes that Gerrymandering, the postponement of electoral districts to optimize votes for a party, does not violate the constitution even in the most extreme cases. This is carte blanche for a practice that has been largely Republican for the past decade.
Benefits for Republicans
The structural advantages of Republicans in US politics are already massive, especially in the Senate. Each state has two senators, and because the particularly sparsely populated states vote conservatively, Republicans are significantly overrepresented there. In the House of Representatives, the party again benefits from the fact that democratic voters are concentrated in urban constituencies, giving individual MPs huge majorities, but lacking votes elsewhere. Gerrymandering reinforces this trend.
These states also have more influence in the electoral college, which is decisive for presidential elections; a vote in Wyoming that always votes to the right has 3.6 times more weight than one in liberal California. There are reform proposals for this electoral mode, but they receive - unsurprisingly - support only in democratically dominated states.
Where is the will of the electorate?
Since the Senate is responsible for appointing judges and more and more judges use their office to promote the Republicans, there is a threat of a situation in which elections no longer reflect the will of the electorate and a minority permanently governs over a majority. There are already signs of this: Trump received significantly fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, and in Congress, the Democrats need more votes than Republicans to win a majority of seats. American democracy is being undermined, the most important foundations of the nation are being undermined.
But what happens when more and more people realize that they can no longer have a say in politics? The consequences of this "conspiracy against America" - the title of a dystopian novel by Philip Roth from 2004 - can only be guessed at today. (Eric Frey, August 3, 2019)
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