Saturday, February 29, 2020

Americans Have No Idea How Their Government Works

Most Americans haven't a clue how their government actually functions.

I mentioned in passing in a previous post that most Americans think that when a Congressman introduces a bill that means it's automatically a law.  And the way the press reports these bills, you might understand why - they report as if the bill was already law, and only in the last paragraph will they admit the bill will not pass the House or Senate, or survive a Presidential Veto.   In fact, the bill will never make it out of Committee.  Apparently they didn't watch Schoolhouse Rock

Politicians count on this. They propose legislation which has no chance of passing, only because it generates headlines and gets people to think that the Congressman is fighting for their rights, when in fact he's just making futile gestures that mean absolutely nothing.  Both AOC and Colonel Sanders are very good at this sort of thing.  Sanders hasn't accomplished anything after decades at office, other than have a post office named after somebody. 

Similarly when Court decisions come down, most Americans think this is the final word on the matter, when usually it's anything but. In a recent case the ninth circuit struck down some of Trump's immigration policies and one member of the SPLC said this was the final decision - as they put it, "Full Stop."
"The court has finally affirmed what we always knew to be the case, that the provision on which the government is relying does not apply to asylum-seekers. Full stop," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, told NBC News.
But of course it isn't. There's one more stop on the road, and that's at the Supreme Court.  And the Supreme Court will likely overturn the 9th circuit's opinion in this matter.  And the folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center know this full well - that all of their efforts will be for nothing.  But like any organization, they have to survive and show they are making good use of their client's money.  So they tout this "win" even though they know deep down the stacked Supreme Court will likely overturn it, if not merely modify it somewhat.   A win in the 9th Circuit is hardly a "Full Stop" but merely a pause.   That sentence is not finished just yet

There are 12 Federal Circuit Appeals Courts that hear appeals from various district courts within their circuit. There's a 13th Court, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals in Patent cases, which was important to me.  They also hear cases involving maritime law and federal employment rights but who gives a shit about that.  All that matters is Patents, of course.

But getting back to our discussion, the 9th circuit has been notoriously liberal in the past.  In fact, in law school, you'd get laughed at if you cited case law from California State Courts or from the 9th Circuit.   It wasn't "controlling law" on the other States or Circuits, and often the 9th Circuit was overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court, which is particularly true today.

Even the 9th Circuit may lose its reputation as a liberal bastion.  Trump has been appointing judges at a rapid clip - after the Senate denied Obama the opportunity.   Even the 9th Circuit is seeing an influx of young, conservative Judges.   Young Judges are important, as they are appointed for life.  Traditionally, Judges and Justices who were appointed to the Federal bench had some senior credentials, and a "lifetime appointment" usually meant twenty years, tops.   Today, we see Judges being appointed who seem barely out of diapers, much less law school.

This is the real impact of the Trump administration.   Long after Trump is gone (and with his health, he is one heart attack away from oblivion) the Judicial system he has crafted will live on.  And this may be particularly true for the Supreme Court.   As a reader recently noted:
In terms of the Supreme Court, President Trump might get three nominations in the next term, assuming he gets a second term:

Justice Ginsburg, noted oldster that had pancreatic cancer. The survival rate for that is nil.....she is 87.

Justice Sotomayor, Type 1 diabetes. Practically no one with type 1 ever live past 60....she is 65.

Justice Breyer: in his early 80's.
The court is presently stacked 5-4.  Imagine it stacked 8-1.  It would be decades before Democrats could appoint enough liberal justices (or even neutral ones!) to swing the tide very much.  We can only hope that with the lifetime appointment, that the "conservative" justices appointed today will mellow with time - as they seem have done in the past.