by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
With corporations firmly in control of the electoral process, and the federal judiciary packed with right-wing judges, all three branches of government are in hostile hands. “Americans are fighting for their lives against corporate greed, white supremacy and misogyny because they are at the mercy of the two conservative political parties which control this country.”
Freedom Rider: Democratic Blame for SCOTUS Rulings
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Americans are left with no one in Washington who is willing to fight for their interests.”
June 30, 2014 will go down in history as a day when two truly horrendous Supreme Court decisions were handed down. Both cases will have lasting and devastating impacts on Americans but the Republican right wing is not solely to blame for the damage done.
In Harris v. Quinn the justices ruled that states cannot compel in-home domestic care workers to pay dues for collective bargaining efforts. Workers in Illinois, Missouri, California, Washington, Vermont and Massachusetts will be affected. Most of these workers are women of color with some of the lowest wages in the nation. Collective bargaining is precisely what they need. The decision harkens back to a time when domestic work was originally exempted from Social Security and thereby excluded millions of black people.
As if the union dues ruling wasn’t bad enough, on that same day the court ruled that corporations with a majority of stock owned by five people or less can claim to hold the same religious beliefs that individuals can. In Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court ruled that employers can ignore the Obamacare contraceptive care mandate if they feel that doing so imposes an undue burden on religious belief.
In the 2010 Citizens United campaign contributions case, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have free speech and therefore “personhood” rights. The very concept is not only absurd on its face but is also irreconcilable with the rights of living, breathing human beings. It also doesn’t appear to bring with it any of the obligations that real persons are bound to respect. If that were the case, the jails would be full of mortgage defrauders, oil company polluters and the like. Corporations are clearly inconsistent in their desire to be treated like the rest of us.
Reaction to the Hobby Lobby case has been rightly denounced by all but the dead ender right wing fringe. The impact is huge with approximately 52% of American workers employed by companies fitting the Hobby Lobby criteria of personhood. Not only have they lost their right to contraception coverage but to other protections which anyone may claim infringe on religious belief. Misogyny is evident as well, with the religious right clearly making good on their desire to force white women to make more babies. These are serious issues indeed but they don’t speak to the breadth of the problem.
“Corporations with a majority of stock owned by five people or less can claim to hold the same religious beliefs that individuals can.”
In this dystopian world of late stage capitalism, corporations have ever increasing rights and human beings have fewer and fewer. Americans are fighting for their lives against corporate greed, white supremacy and misogyny because they are at the mercy of the two conservative political parties which control this country. The Republicans are true believers in retrograde politics which will undo any and all protections against big corporations, law enforcement and the state itself. Democrats may appear less evil in the beliefs they claim to have but they obviously have no interest in fighting the good fight. They want to be part of the permanent government and that means pleading for corporate money and endlessly finding ways to compromise the interests of voters. Regardless of their true feelings, their unwillingness to fight the power makes them of little use.
The Hobby Lobby decision came about because Democrats never considered true health care reform which would have separated insurance coverage from employment. Instead they colluded with big pharmaceutical and insurance companies to keep the profit motive in health care. This market driven system is responsible for all of this country’s health coverage ills but Obama and rest of the Democratic Party made it clear that a single payer system was never on the agenda.
While the Republicans do away with teacher tenure in California and pass anti labor “right to work” laws like Harris v. Quinn, Democrats join in when there are opportunities for career advancement and big paychecks. Robert Gibbs was president Obama’s first press secretary. Like others before him he leveraged this political position to insure a lucrative living for the rest of his life. His public relations firm, Incite Agency, will take the lead in making the case against teacher tenure, seniority, union rights and other job protections.
He isn’t alone in this effort among Democrats. Former Obama chief of staff and now Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has laid off thousand of teachers and other public school employees and made clear his commitment to privatize education.
“The Hobby Lobby decision came about because Democrats never considered true health care reform which would have separated insurance coverage from employment.”
The Supreme Court shows the rock and hard place where Americans are trapped. We have no one in any of the much vaunted three branches of government who asserts our human and civil rights. Quite the opposite. While Republicans openly campaign against anything that protects minorities and working people, Democrats talk out of both sides of their mouths. They say they want to increase the federal minimum wage, but in 2009 and 2010 they had a president in the White House, majorities in Congress and the power to do what they wanted. Apparently they didn’t want to raise the minimum wage very badly because they did nothing of the sort.
While Democrats talk a good game, Republican true believers go for the jugular. They speak openly of impeaching president Obama should they gain control of the Senate in November. In 2008 congressman Dennis Kucinich brought 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush but Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders scuttled his plans. The Constitution also allows for a state to call for impeachment. When a Democratic legislator in Washington tried to bring the case for impeaching Bush, his efforts were also squelched. Senator Barack Obama was among those who demurred when Democrats had the chance to delegitimize Republicans for years to come.
The senators deference in his quest to become president has come back to haunt him. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the decisions in both the Harris and Hobby Lobby cases. He and chief justice Roberts are now the villains du jour for Democrats. Unfortunately Democrats in the Senate weren’t interested in keeping them off of the court when they had the opportunity to do so. Senators Barack Obama and John Kerry sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (which votes Supreme Court nominees up or down. Alito and Roberts were well known members of the right wing Federalist Society but Democrats passed up the opportunity to grill them on their associations. Obama and Kerry could have filibustered these two nominees but instead went along to get along and lobbed softball questions. The rest is history.
Republicans are far right and Democrats are center right. That alignment insures that Americans are left with no one in Washington who is willing to fight for their interests. Democrats will of course use the Hobby Lobby case to help raise money and convince progressives that the barbarians are at the gate when in fact they are all barbarians who must be defeated. There is no lesser evil, just more or less effective malefactors who are all responsible for our ever worsening plight.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.