SCOTUS Says No To Politics

by Michael Liss

The Supreme Court doesn’t play politics.

In what was destined to be an inevitable ruling, by an inevitable 5-4 vote, inevitably written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court decided, in Rucho v. Common Cause, that it couldn’t decide how much “partisan” gerrymandering was too much partisan gerrymandering. So it wouldn’t. Case closed.

Rucho is an extraordinary decision, with the potential, over the next 10 years, to change fundamentally the way we experience democracy. That may seem to be a radical statement, but it is absolutely true: Political parties now have a virtually free hand, once they obtain control over a state government, to redistrict as they see fit in order to retain that control. The Supreme Court is not completely out of the game—Roberts did acknowledge that they might still review gerrymandering based on race, or on “one-person, one-vote” grounds, but, by order of the Chief Justice, the Courts will be closed for a permanent federal holiday if the gerrymandering was done for the purpose of political gain.

This is an earthquake, which will, no doubt, lead to a further arms race between the parties. As Republicans control more states (Kyle Kondik, writing for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, cites research indicating that Republicans control redistricting for 179 Congressional Districts, Democrats only 49), the advantage will be theirs. Many critics on the Left are suggesting that the conservative majority on the Court chose this path for precisely this reason. I prefer not to be cynical. Rather, I just want to point out the obvious: The real losers will be the center of the electorate; mainstream, moderate voters who find their concerns completely ignored because the more “safe seats” there are, the more influence primary voters (who tend to be far more doctrinaire) will have. This will inevitably lead to more radicalized government answerable to fewer and fewer people, and even more alienation. Read more »


by Michael Liss

The man for whom the word “Emergency” must have been invented (“serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action”) pulled the pin out of yet another hand grenade.

Our President, Donald J. Trump, bollixed, frustrated, stymied, and parboiled (twice) by the evil Nancy Pelosi, went off and did just what he wanted to do anyway. He picked up the compromises made by Democrats in bipartisan negotiations to re-open the government, put them in his pocket, and grabbed for more.

What a fine drama it was. He summoned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the White House, heard him say the votes were there to pass the bill, and told McConnell that he, Trump, did not care what Congress thought. It was irrelevant. The President had consulted his legal advisors, his portrait of Andrew Jackson, and his statue of Winston Churchill, and concluded that the term “emergency” also encompassed any situation in which he did not get his way.

“Mitchie,” he thundered (the exact transcript has been suppressed and placed in a secure location with the Putin conversations), “I want my Wall, and I will smite this bill unless you pledge your undying support for my Emergency Declaration.” The Senior Senator from Kentucky, wily cephalopod that he is, complied. None of us need speculate over exactly what curses, orbs, and scepters were employed, or whether McConnell extracted something for himself, but he knelt, thanked his master, and then left the Oval Office back-side first, bowing at every other step.

Game on! So we move to the most frequently used phrase in the Trump Era, “Can he do this?” Read more »