Obama and the Supreme Court Appointments

There are millions of Americans who realize that Obama is a front-man for Wall Street, the Pentagon and the oil conglomerates. Nonetheless, they intend to vote for him because he will potentially have the power to appoint future Supreme Court Justices. While this assumption is true in the abstract, it is a rationale that does not stand up to scrutiny.

There are a number of reasons for this conclusion:

1) Obama has never stood upon principle when the issue of personnel and appointments are concerned. He abandoned Van Jones; same for Shirley Sherrod; same for Elizabeth Warren; same for Justice Liu, currently of the California Supreme Court. All the Tea Party has to do is criticize a potential candidate as being too far to the Left, or too “socialistic,” and Obama runs for the hills. It is quite likely that he will end up appointing a milk-toast liberal who will make little difference when push comes to shove.

2) The U.S. Supreme Court, with Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Kennedy, will not be a progressive force for needed social change for a decade or more. With a middle of the road associate of the sort that Obama might appoint, it will at best, be a force for little or no change in the foreseeable future.

3) The U.S. Supreme Court plays a rather insignificant role in changing the important policy decisions that confront the American people. It is true that a right-wing court can rule for George Bush over Al Gore, or for corporate “personhood” over corporate responsibility, or for the legitimacy of a police state or a military empire, instead of for working people. But, ultimately, it is the Congress, owned, bought and paid for by the corporate oligarchy, which makes the laws, overrides “bad” Supreme Court decisions and defines the context within which laws and lawsuits are defined. An “unpopular” court decision can be overturned in a week by a hostile Congress. A disenfranchised public cannot force a group of millionaire politicians to do what is right for the people, without more power and influence than currently exists among the 99% of this country.

4) Historically, the Supreme Court has played a conservative and pro-corporate role regarding the social issues of the day. While the William O. Douglas, Hugo Black, and Earl Warren courts made significant inroads into the areas of protection for those accused of crime and in support of civil rights activists, it was the mass movements of those decades that laid the foundation for those decisions. The Court was not defining or creating a new consciousness; rather, it was merely reinforcing the social trends taking place in the society. The reactionary politics of the American ruling class pose an insurmountable obstacle to the current Supreme Court’s ability to support progressive social change and public control over our economy and resources. While the Occupy Movement, for example, has had a significant impact in educating the American public as to the abuses imposed upon us by the corporate oligarchy, in reality, there is no unified, organized opposition to military/corporate domination of life in this country.

5) The Hobson’s choice of electing Obama because of the minimal impact he will have on future Supreme Court decisions is a ridiculous one. This President has appointed Wall Street hooligans to run our economy. He has waged the most vicious, unwarranted wars in our nation’s history against defenseless Muslims. He has pandered to and empowered an oil industry that is destroying the environment and resources of the entire world, while doing nothing to regulate or control them. He has consistently helped the rich at the expense of the poor. The suggestion that a potential appointment to the US Supreme Court would justify four more years of abuse from this President is nonsense. Any potential court appointment would be a meaningless token in the context of the harm this President is causing. It is similar to a Wal-Mart offer to give customers a $10 rebate on items that are massively overpriced to begin with.

6) There are other marginal advantages to having an Obama in the White House, rather than a Repub: a) the veto power will be exercised more humanely with a Democratic President than a Republican one; b) appointments to various congressional committees and offices will be more diverse than anything the Repubs are capable of; and, c) visitors to the White House will be more likely to represent the world’s peoples than are the white-sheeted candidates the Repubs are likely to court. But the major direction of the country; namely, away from democracy toward imperialism; the concentration of wealth; the destruction of quality education and meaningful human services; and, Klu Klux Klan patriotism rather than just immigration laws — those all are squarely in the hands of the Repubs, whether they be fronted by Obama or a GOP mouthpiece. Until those directions change, the vote for either party is long-term suicide with continued oppression and war.

The next time someone says that the Repubs and the Democrats are the same, BUT the Democrats will make better Supreme Court appointments, think twice. You are getting suckered by a false premise.

The issue does not end here, however, because inevitably the next question arises: When is it inappropriate to choose “the lesser of two evils?”

If a rational human being were asked in 1928 Germany, “Which one of these people do you support: Eichmann, Hitler or Himmler?”, very few people would be likely to choose which of these monsters should be spared and which supported. Most intelligent people would say, they are all horrible excuses for human beings, and good citizens should not support any of them.

What if one is more likely to be nice to Gypsies, or sympathetic to the idea of women’s emancipation or equality with men, or interested in saving the forests? Does an intelligent person say “I’ll support a, or b, or c, because of one or several of these factors?” Or is one left with the realization that the evil done by these “leaders” outweighs any positive act that they might do, regardless of how much better their “constructive” ideas might be?

The people of the world are watching their environment destroyed, their economy hijacked, their future despoiled by wars and poverty. The fact that Obama might appoint a lukewarm liberal to the Supreme Court instead of a Bush-style reactionary means nothing.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law. Read other articles by Luke, or visit Luke's website.