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SCOTUS undermines the consent of the people
...and We the People don't seem to care.
For a court that embraces Originalism—the theory that states we follow the original meaning of the texts in the Constitution when written—the current Supreme Court has destroyed an original founding value of our country: fostering of an honest government that earns the trust—and the consent—of the people.
Our Constitutional framers weren’t stupid, they understood the temptations of public servants using their positions for personal gain. While it’s impossible to stop dishonest people from doing what they do; we can, our framers reasoned, create a system that makes corruption harder to engage in. Using a broad system of checks and balances--where no one branch, person or level of government can accrue significant power--the Constitution attempts to minimize powers that can ultimately be corrupted by corrupt people.
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Today, with only 20 percent of Americans having trust in our political system, there is a widespread perception among voters that our entire political system is being abused by the powerful. This is not about one or two bad apples, but a system where the current rules of our political process encourages corrupt behavior and, at the very least, creates the appearance of widespread public corruption.
Which brings us to the current Supreme Court, who--in both their legal decisions and professional behavior--has created a political-value-system that condones the “pay-to-play” system that defines government today. This in turn has broken the trust of the people and has undermined their consent to be governed.
This is NOT just about Clarence Thomas’ six-figured vacations paid by political boosters, or the whataboutism fact that liberal justices are provided similar largesse that they would not have recieved otherwise had they not been a Supreme Court justice. No, the gifts showered onto our justices—which has stained their public reputations for honesty and objectivity—are symbolic of the dangerous direction this court has taken the country by legalizing systemic political corruption.
Most notably is the 2010 Citizen United decision that ruled money is speech and corporations have the right to political speech, opening up a floodgate of money into a political system already drowning in money. Just before the Citizen United decision, $200 million was spent by outside groups to influence elections. By 2020, $3 billion was spent influencing federal campaigns. By increasing outside politic spending by 1,500 % in less than ten years, SCOTUS tore down critical guardrails that fostered a more honest Republic and replaced it with an auction house selling influence to the higher bidder.
Not stopping at unlimited political campaign donations, SCOTUS has also legalized the practice expensive gift giving—like jewelry, vacations or private school tuition—to politicians and their family, while politicians at the same time seek favors on behalf of friends bearing gifts. As long as there is not a direct quid pro quo between the “gift” and actions of the politician, it’s perfectly legal behavior, SCOTUS has ruled. Therefore it would be a crime to say, “I’ll give you a $10,000 watch if you secure a permit I need”. But it’s perfectly fine to say, “Here is a watch I’d like to give you because of our friendship. By the way, on an unrelated matter, can you help me get a permit?”
THAT is an enormous legal loophole for anyone to buy political access and seek favors without the fear of being charged with bribery. Given that SCOTUS created this compromised political environment, it’s hardly surprising that individual Justices are taking advantage of the low ethical bar they set for everyone else.
The Framers understood that human behavior leans towards corruption and they wrote into the Constitution ways that make it harder for corruption for foster. But today, a Supreme Court that claims to embrace the original ideas of the Framers has turned its back on creating the virtuous Republic the Framers envisioned and has built a political cesspool that breeds corruption.
Who wants to work in a cesspool that breeds corruption? Is it any wonder why people like Jared Kushner and Hunter Biden use their family’s name to enrich themselves with foreign payoffs? Or people like George Santos can swindle themselves into being elected to Congress? It’s because we have a system that attracts grifters and not statesmen.
Is it any wonder why voters have virtually no trust in their government or institutions? While our history and traditions are deep and this country has faced greater challenges, we seemed to have forgotten the tradition of ethical guardrails that creates trust and nutures the “consent of the people” to be governed. Worse, voters today seem content to live in this political cesspool of distrust, instead of rebuilding a new generation of ethical guardrails for a new generation.
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