Since the Civil War the Supreme Court has cycled through long conservative and liberal periods, but nothing quite like the polarization that marks the present Court. If, as seems likely, additional Justice(s) nominated by President Trump are confirmed, the Court’s shift to the right will probably accelerate and aid Republican efforts to roll back progressive economic and social laws and make it more difficult for the Democrats to enact progressive laws that will pass constitutional muster if and when they regain power. This is not to suggest that every Justice is an ideologue who invariably follows her political preference in deciding politically charged cases, but these preferences are increasingly clear and well known before appointment and the chance of a Justice changing her ideological allegiance after confirmation appears slim. This colloquy will explore the historic influence of the Court on the political process and the role it may play in the future.
David Snow is a former lawyer and federal Judge intrigued by the historic role of the Constitution and the Court in the governance of our country.
…will focus on the history of the conservatives’ use of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, the 14th Amendment, and other constitutional provisions, to preclude federal and state economic and social legislation until the Great Depression and subsequent decades when progressive Justices reinterpreted these same constitutional provisions to vindicate the New Deal, integration, voting rights, civil rights laws and an expansion of individual rights,
…will explore the conservative counter revolution that blossomed in the 1980s with the appointment of strong conservative Justices of whom Antonin Scalia was the most famous and influential. Despite the wishes of some conservatives, there has been no wholesale return to the Constitution of the 19th Century Court, but since the 1980s the Court has sharply limited governmental power to regulate voting rights, control or limit the use of money in elections, regulate firearms and limit integration through affirmative action.
…will hone in on Roe v. Wade, the effects of repeal and the surprising embrace from the Court and public of gay marriage and LBGT rights, while the hostility to abortion rights, at least in the red states, continues unabated. We will also focus on the Justices’ rationale for deciding hot button political issues with a focus on the success of “originalism” championed by Justice Scalia.
…will look at issues including gerrymandering, voter suppression and the role of uncontrolled money in democratic elections, the expanding protections for religious expression in the marketplace and the conflict between a conservative President and liberal states or localities on “sanctuary cities” and “reverse discrimination.” We will also explore what role, if any, the Court might play in protecting democratic institutions and customs against executive authoritarian impulses, if that appears to be a live issue.
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