Monday, March 12, 2012

How the Supreme Court should not work

I teach A.P. Government and Politics and often use past A.P. essay questions for the topic of class discussions. We just finished the unit on the Judicial Branch and one of the questions from a past test asked about methods that interest groups use that can influence the Court. The powers behind College Board were looking for such answers as filing amicus briefs or trying to influence the selection and confirmation process. On the rubric made available from College Board, they explicitly state that no credit should be given for protests and demonstrations. After all, the justices are supposed to be making decisions based on the Constitution and the law, not public opinion. They are the one institution entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the minority against the majority.

But that isn't how this administration works. They're preparing for the hearings later this month on their health law by mobilizing for protests at the Court.
On Wednesday, White House officials summoned dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.

....Supporters of the law plan to hold events outside the court on each day of oral argument. The events include speeches by people with medical problems who have benefited or could benefit from the law. In addition, supporters will arrange for radio hosts to interview health care advocates at a “radio row,” at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.

....Groups working with the White House include the Service Employees International Union; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Health Care for America Now, a consumer coalition that fought for passage of the legislation; Protect Your Care, a nonprofit group created last year to defend the 2010 law; and the Center for American Progress, a research and advocacy group with close ties to the White House.

Eddie P. Vale, a spokesman for Protect Your Care, said White House officials at the meeting “sounded pretty excited about the size and scope” of efforts to promote the law this month.
Protests and "prayer vigils?" Come on. Is that how the Supreme Court is supposed to be influenced in their minds or is it public opinion that they're trying to shape regardless of what the Court decides?

Ann Althouse is amazed
at the use of prayer vigils.
Coordinate plans for a prayer vigil?!

That's one way to shape debate, showing people praying to keep Obamacare alive. But why would the White House want to create the impression that they believe that God, influenced by prayer, might sway the Supreme Court? Or is it that they believe that some Supreme Court Justices might be swayed by the spectacle of people praying for a statute to be held constitutional? They can't want us to believe they believe that. Presumably, they just want to promote the belief that Obamacare is terribly important and people desperately want it preserved.
Sometimes there are protesters who use prayer for abortion and capital punishment cases. Now interpretations of the Commerce Clause are getting the same treatment.

The Republicans are preparing to answer with their own protests.
Opponents of the law will be active as well and are planning to show their sentiments at a rally on the Capitol grounds on March 27, the second day of Supreme Court arguments. Republican lawmakers, including Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, are expected to address the rally, being organized by Americans for Prosperity, with support from conservative and free-market groups like the Tea Party Express.
We've gotten to the point now where both sides seek to spin Court decisions. This case on Obamacare will be part of the political campaign this fall. And it is really depressing that it has now become a part of the entire judicial experience that both sides are holding rallies to try in some way to influence the Court.

I guess I would now have to accept student answers of "prayer vigils" as a method used by interest groups to influence the Court. Geesh! And how sad that the White House is now organizing this bastardization of our system.