Donald Trump only served one term but his legacy will last decades, if not generations. He ensured that by appointing no less than three right wing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. All are in their 50s and they serve for life, so they will be inflicting their will on their fellow Americans for a long time.
We have seen one aspect of this with the court’s overturning of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision thereby ending women’s constitutional right to abortion. As Chief Justice Roberts pointed out, the court could have ruled favourably on the case without overthrowing Roe, but they decided to go whole hog and eliminate the right entirely.
The court seems to have an agenda. At least Justice Clarence Thomas has indicated as much. He wrote in a concurring opinion that with the right to abortion dealt with, the court should now reconsider its precedents on contraception, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and same-sex marriage.
The abortion decision came just a day after the court, in striking down a New York law, declared for the first time that there is a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. This is a decision that casts doubt on a huge array of gun laws, including the one recently passed by Congress.
The court had already achieved significant conservative goals before Trump’s triumvirate gained power. For example, in its infamous Citizens United decision in 2010, it ruled that the government couldn’t restrict independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations and other associations. Thus big money was unleashed on the American electoral process, dealing a body blow to democracy.
The court has chipped away at the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 to protect against racial discrimination in voting, making it more difficult to challenge laws that restrict voting rights.
Now climate change action is on the list. The court is expected to soon issue a ruling regarding the Environmental Protection Agency that will seriously hinder President Biden’s efforts to rein in greenhouse gases.
Its ruling could weaken other federal agencies as well, something the Republicans have planned for for decades. Georgetown University public health law professor Lawrence Gostin states that the reading could “handcuff the federal government from taking action to protect Americans’ health safety and the environment.”
With the Supreme court doing its bidding, the Republicans hardly need Congress anymore.
Nonetheless, while the court may be pleasing right-wingers, it isn’t pleasing the American public. A recent Gallup poll showed that the court’s approval ratings have plummeted to a historic low 25 percent.
Even Donald Trump has demurred, complaining that overturning Roe will be bad for the Republicans. Let’s hope he’s right. What poetic justice if they too are bitten by the monster he and they have created.