In the past week, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by chief justice and Bush appointee John Roberts, capped off a general rightward swing by ruling 5–4 against several progressive issues once thought sacrosanct. The result of this rightward swing is that the court ruled in favor of conservatives twice as often as it ruled against them.
Among the major decisions handed down by the court was one stating that it was unconstitutional to use race as the basis of school diversity and integration programs. Critics and opponents of the decision say it will reverse decades of progress in desegrating public schools.
The court also upheld a nationwide ban on late-term abortions, thereby throwing a bone to the anti-choice elements that form the basis of George Bush’s presidency and possibly paving the way for an all-out ban on all abortions. After all, the reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. has been a major goal of the pro-life movement.
Free speech was another casualty of the new Supreme Court. Well, free speech for students anyway. In a 5–4 decision, the court ruled against free speech for students in the “Bong hits 4 Jesus” case. At the same time, the court ruled that the restrictions placed on corporations and unions running last-minute election campaign advertisements on television would seriously limit political speech. The restrictions had been introduced in 2002 after passage of the McCain-Feingold campain finance law. So, I guess free speech is for corporations but not students.
Certainly, not everyone is as troubled by these decisions or the court’s general shift to the right. On the contrary, many people—especially the die-hard conservatives who voted for George Bush—are quite pleased with these decisions.
The rest of us, however, are now stuck with a right-wing court with two of the most conservative judges aged 52 and 57. Justice Stephen Breyer is right to say, in a dissenting opinion, that “It is not often that so few have so quickly changed so much.”
I shudder to think about what else they’ll change over the remainder of their terms on the court.
Oh, did I mention these guys are appointed for life?