By Lance Chilton
The past 2 weeks have been devastating in terms of the decisions spewing forth from that grand marble edifice across First Street from the U.S. Capitol. I mean the Supreme Court, which seems to be acting to deny the legitimacy, not only of the executive and legislative branches of government, but also of its own previous decisions.
SCOTUS, as it is sometimes called, is the way it is because three conservative justices were appointed by America’s terrible 45th President and were confirmed by the Senate. Of course, the Senate is structured to be anti-democratic, giving every 290,000 Wyomingites the same power as every 19,675,000 Californians. Likewise, the Electoral College gave the 2016 victory to that monster with orange hair, even though 2,868,686 more Americans voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, than for him.
So what has SCOTUS been doing, in case you have been caving during the past week or exploring Antarctica without a radio?
  • In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it reversed Roe v. Wade, handing women a major defeat in their ability to control their own bodies and destinies, allowing states to ban abortion completely or almost completely, as Texas and Mississippi and an increasing number of other states have already begun to do. Fortunately for New Mexico women and those in surrounding states, the New Mexico Legislature in 2021 passed HB 51, decriminalizing abortion here in the event, now realized, that Roe v. Wade was overturned.
  • In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, it struck down a New York law requiring citizens to show good cause to carry a concealed weapon, making one wonder what type of gun regulation would be able to get past this Supreme Court. The law passed the same week by every Democrat on Capitol Hill and a precious few of that red party in the wake of the Buffalo and Uvalde disasters?  The sensible legislation, including red flag rules, passed by New Mexico’s Legislature?
  • In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, it voided EPA regulations on carbon emissions from power plants, writing that the EPA had unconstitutionally assumed powers reserved to the Congress. In so doing it not only threatens to blow apart any reasonable American approach to climate change but also sends a chilling message about the Executive Branch’s authority to govern at all. Fortunately for New Mexico, our Democratic Land Commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richards, has condemned the decision and pledged her office’s support for climate control measures.
  • The Court decided to reconsider Moore v. Harper, brought by the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in its next term. The case has the potential to approve a North Carolina gerrymander condemned as too partisan by that State’s highest court. Worse, it raises issues of the power of legislatures to decide federal elections, potentially enabling them to send false sets of electors to the January 6 electoral college count! Fortunately again for New Mexico, our legislators have supported our secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, in her quest to make voting easier rather than more difficult,  while maintaining the high integrity of the votes here.
Due to the lifetime appointments granted to Supreme Court justices by the Constitution and the apparent unpopularity of attempts to increase the number of those justices (FDR contemplated it, but did not attempt it, and there has been little talk of it until it just came up again) it appears as if we will have a radically conservative Court for years to come. After all, of the Republican-president-appointed judges, Roberts is 67, Alito is 72, Thomas is 74, Gorsuch is 54, Kavanaugh is 57, and Coney Barrett is just 50, and since Supreme Court Justices get much better medical care than most of us can afford, they’re likely to live longer than the average US life span. There isn’t much we can do about it–that is, except get out the vote so that the President, POTUS, is more reasonable than Mr. Orange, and so that the Senate is not in radically conservative hands. And of course so many decisions are made at lower than those lofty heights: At every level, from school board and conservancy district to Congress, our votes make a difference. If the US were like Australia, where citizens must vote according to law, turning out the vote wouldn’t be so important. But getting out our neighbors’ vote this November and every year is vitally important to our continued well-being in New Mexico, in the US, in the world as a whole, as these Supreme Court decisions (judicial malpractice in this physician’s view) show. I’ll do all I can to be part of the effort to get out the vote, and hope you will too.