You don’t have to be a politico or even mildly observant to know that June has been a politics-overload. The Supreme Court provided grist for the mill on everything from the role of race in college admissions to effectively ending the pre-clearance process for voting changes. They also gave the right to states to decide the issue of gay marriage. Meanwhile in those states politics was no less exciting either.
Yet, what struck me was how routine Americans were about the whole process. Of course, decisions and bills brought special interests to their feet and their twitter feed: crying foul, celebrating, or even both. There was always a sense of continuity.
Maybe Next Time…
The “maybe next time” thought process that we in America take for granted is essential in the flourishing of a full, rich democracy. Without it countries become but a shell being a played in a game three card monty. You might think you found the one with the values underneath but probably not. These delegative democracies are perhaps even more common than ones with rules that matter and principles that last. In Angola, elections are called at irregular intervals with less than a month’s notice, so opposition candidates don’t stand a chance. In Burma, so highly praised in foreign press, a military junta still rules with an unpredictable iron fist. As for the big up and comers, the BRICS, each has high levels of corruption and/or nepotism that would send Americans into conniptions.
The United States not only holds fair elections – plenty of notice, lots of rules (usually following), and normally two viable candidates – but is governed under so many regulations and rules. Strange as this may sound, this actually a good thing!
The Supreme Courts decisions rarely reach the level of Brown v. Board; they usually plot results into the “maybes under certain circumstances” category. As for states, even where large majorities represent a particularly party, there are ways of skirting, adjusting, and fighting back. I still remember around 2002 when Colorful Colorado played unexpected refuge to Texas Democrats. Despite millions upon millions of liberal supporters in the state, Republicans controlled a near supermajority in the state legislature, and they wanted more still. They designed a new Congressional districting map that was so incredibly self-serving and antithetical to free and fair elections that they placed themselves on the verge of one-party rule. Utilizing Robert’s Rules, Texas Democratic legislators realized their best response was to leave. Outside the Lone Star state, the legislature’s Republicans could not reach quorum and approve the bill.
I saw echoes of this minority spirit in the filibuster of Wendy…. Fired up against a bill to greatly limit a woman’s right to choose, the filibuster went on for 10 hours until she was finally stopped through a procedural vote. Despite the politicians’ best efforts, the crowd’s cheers then carried the meeting past its midnight deadline. The special session officially over, the legislation had been avoided at least for now. LIke in so many occasions, though, our fundamental nature gives those who disagree a “maybe next time”. Vocal battles are better than wars and far less costly.
And Yet Something Still Troubles Me…
While legislatures may make an imperfect venue to debate controversial issues, judicial review within the Supreme Court lacks the same amount of legitimacy. In many democracies (most based off of the United Kingdom) parliamentary sovereignty holds that all laws passed by the legislature are therefore constitutional. The US Judiciary is a very important element of checks and balances, for we didn’t exactly have much faith in directly following the flexible framework of our former imperial overlords. However, remember that for every Brown v. Board, there are many repugnant rulings: Dred Scott decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. US and Bush v. Gore. Bottom Line: The Supreme Court should take a much smaller role in overturning the will of the people.