The United States has been a constantly evolving democracy ever since it was founded in 1776, but its survival as a democracy is now gravely endangered. A set of loosely interconnected developments at home and abroad is responsible for this crisis.
From abroad, the US is threatened by repressive regimes led by Xi Jinping in China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia who want to impose an autocratic form of government on the world.
But the threat to the US from the domestic enemies of democracy is even greater. They include the current Supreme Court, which is dominated by far-right extremists, and Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which placed those extremists on the Court.
What qualifies the majority of the Court as extremists? It is not merely their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that recognized a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth. What qualifies them as extremists is the arguments they used to justify their decision and the indications they gave of how far they might be willing to go in carrying out those arguments.
Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the majority opinion, based his ruling on the assertion that the Fourteenth Amendment protects only those rights that were generally recognized in 1868, when the amendment was ratified. But this argument endangers many other rights that have been recognized since then, among them the right to contraception, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights.
Carried to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning could even allow states to ban inter-racial marriage, as some did until 1967. It is also clear that this Court intends to mount a frontal attack on the executive branch. One of the most consequential rulings of the Court’s just-completed term denied the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to issue regulations needed to combat climate change. [Continue reading…]