A friend tells the story of striking up a conversation with a hip looking man in his late 20s-early 30s in a movie line on the west side of LA shortly before the 2004 election between George Bush and John Kerry. He asked the young man who he planned to vote for, he answered that he hadn’t made up his mind. My friend said to him, “Two words. Supreme Court.” To which the young man replied, “Oh, are we voting for them too?”
While we may be disappointed in his apparent lack of civics knowledge, in his own way, he spoke the truth. The most lasting actions a president takes may be his appointments to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices serve for as long as they wish or as long as they are able. Their decisions very often set precedents that can live forever. Bush had appointed John Roberts Chief Justice in his first term, but according to today’s guest, it was his second term appointment of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor that really solidified the Roberts Court.
O’Connor had been a much more moderate conservative than Alito has proven to be. The center of the court shifted to the right, which may matter little in decisions with large majorities – more than 50% of cases each term are decided unanimously or by 8-1 or 7-2 votes — but can be crucial in decisions decide 5-4.
MARCIA COYLE has chosen to focus her book THE ROBERTS COURT: The Struggle for the Constitution on four such 5-4 decisions – Citizens United on campaign finance; District of Columbia v Heller on gun control; on race in school choice; and on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court’s been in the news a lot lately. Several of the nine justices claim to be originalists, assuming to know what the framers meant when they wrote it, and that they meant for us to follow it for the most part as written for the life of the republic. Well. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.
And my next guest has taken him up on that. KEVIN BLEYER — who’s won Emmys writing for THE DAILY SHOW and has worked on President Obama’s speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinners – has done what he calls “a page one rewrite.” Bleyer joins me on Free Forum to talk about his new book, ME THE PEOPLE: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America.
Among the things that most people agree are in big trouble these days are the European Union and democracy in the US. I will talk with today’s guest, STEVEN HILL, about both.
We have been hearing for two years about the trouble Europe is in. The debt crisis in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and beyond is challenging this federation of nations and economies to share the solutions to problems that have proven worst in individual countries who took greater risks than their more prudent neighbors. After Europe seemed to have fared better than the US in the early stages of this prolonged crash, what brought on this crisis? How close are they to solving it? How close are they to blowing it? What would Hill’s advice be? And what does it mean for the rest of the world and for the US in particular?
While the bad news of this Euro crisis makes headlines in the US, what has not made headlines is the good news contained in HILL’s 2010 book EUROPE’S PROMISE. I will check in with Hill about the current state of that promise.
Closer to home, HILL believes that America’s recent economic collapse was preceded by a longer-term political collapse. Even before the economic crisis, the US faced choice-less elections, out-of-control campaign spending,partisan polarization, a rigidly divided Congress, a filibuster-wild U.S. Senate, superficial debate, mindless media, a partisan Supreme Court, and paralysis in the face of new global challenges.
As the middle collapses and partisans take over, Americans’ frustration grows – witness the Tea Party and the 99%. In a brand new 2012 Election edition of his 2006 book, Steven Hill renews his 10 Steps to Repair American Democracy.
I'll be joined by GRANT DAVIS DENNY, a knowledgeable expert and advocate for public financing of elections. Among other things, we'll talk about the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs FEC and Prop 15, a clean money pilot program on the California ballot June 8th.
Has government of, by and for the people perished from the United States?
January 21st, a divided Supreme Court reversed precedent and law, voting 5-4 in Citizens United v. FEC to remove limits on corporate contributions to political campaigns. We'll discuss the decision in the context of money in politics, looking at potential outcomes and possible remedies.
BOB EDGAR is President and CEO of Common Cause, a grassroots advocacy organization working for democracy reform, with nearly 400,000 members and supporters and state chapters in 36 states. Edgar previously served as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the leading U.S. organization in the movement for Christian unity, and before that as president of the Claremont School of Theology. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1974, the first Democrat in 82 years to represent the heavily Republican 7th Congressional District near Philadelphia.
SCOTT NELSON is an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington, D.C., where he has practiced since August 2001. After graduating with honors from Harvard College, Nelson attended Harvard Law School, and was elected President of the Harvard Law Review in 1983. He then served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Nelson represented key Congressional sponsors of McCain-Feingold before the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.