The Theocratic Takeover of America
It has only just begun
When I worked on Capitol Hill for a Republican Congressman, we used to laugh at some of the crazy constituent calls we would get. The Congressman would shake his head and even call some of his own voters “batshit crazy.”
This was during the Obama years, and for many of this Congressman’s constituents, it wasn’t enough to simply derail Obama’s policy goals. They wanted to end the Democrats and democracy altogether.
They wanted a theocratic takeover of America. For many of the voters in this heartland state, religion was invariably intertwined with politics. Despite the separation between church and state in American democracy, these voters, and many others like them, saw no difference between their white Christian Evangelism and their politics.
In the wake of Alito’s draft abortion opinion, these voters are realizing their dreams. And Congressmen like my old boss have enabled them to retain power.
The theocratic takeover via the U.S. Supreme Court
With Mitch McConnell at the reins, the Republican party has used the countermajoritarian checks in the Senate to undermine popular Democratic efforts. When I say popular, I mean that the majority of Americans agree (to some degree) with a policy position.
For example, gun control. As you have probably already heard, America suffered yet another mass shooting over the weekend. Myself and others have written and protested for basic gun control laws (e.g., uniform background checks) for years. The majority of Americans support basic gun control laws. And yet.
The list goes on from healthcare to basic checks on Congress themselves. Who isn’t in favor of age or term limits for octogenarians?
While Democrats are also at fault for not pushing popular policies, Republicans have demonstrated a long history of actively subverting the will of the majority. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Remember Merrick Garland?
McConnell detested Trump. In private. Publicly he supported him - to a certain extent - for one overarching reason. To have the power to shape the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although the Supreme Court is the only unelected branch of the U.S. government, it has considerable power in shaping policy. It can strike down laws as unconstitutional with the stroke of a pen. What better way to shape American life in an unpopular image than through an unelected branch of government?
McConnell and many of his Republican colleagues believe their version of America is dying. These folks genuinely think that family values, morality, and Christianity are under assault by woke liberal mobs. From their perspective, one of the best ways to combat the assault is to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will fight their culture war.
They have made it a priority to force their religious and cultural values on the majority of Americans. And they have orchestrated this theocratic takeover of America through calculated steps over the past 50 years.
It started in conservative legal circles
Groups like The Federalist Society have penetrated almost every law school. Conservative legal scholars who had historically preached judicial restraint suddenly added major caveats to their judicial philosophies. Judicial restraint was the ideal so long as the law or interpretation in question comported with the tenets of originalism, which is a constitutional interpretative method that asks what the founders intended.
If a law or constitutional interpretation did not comport with originalism, then a conserative judge or justice should strike it down. This constitutional approach gave license to do what they had criticized liberal justices for doing for years - taking an activist approach to constitutional jurisprudence and playing more the role of legislator than jurist.
The ugly truth about originalism - apart from its activist underpinnings - is that one must accept the fact the founders did not live up to American ideals. What was written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was not practiced. Not everyone in early America was afforded equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Unless, of course, you were a white, anglo-saxon, property-owning man.
Why should we be forced to look at the Constitution through this myopic lens?
Because it guarantees a certain way of life for certain people.
It allows white conservatives to maintain control. By injecting more of Evangelical Christianity into American society via the U.S. Supreme Court, many groups who have gained power over the years will lose it. From women to gays, from blacks to immigrants of any other ethnicity or creed. They will be automatically undermined in American society once the current U.S. Supreme Court and conservative legal movement have finished their work.
Abortion is only the beginning
As we wrote recently, the current U.S. Supreme Court is only getting started with their draft opinion in Dobbs. Although Justice Clarence Thomas should be careful because this judicial trend could make his own marriage to Ginni illegal.
This is not about abortion or any other issue as a policy matter. We could debate those until we are blue in the face. They are difficult issues. But there are right and wrong ways to go about addressing and resolving them.
The raw seizure of power is the wrong way of doing it. Provided we as Americans want:
To retain some semblance of democracy.
The U.S. Supreme Court to have institutional legitimacy and credibility; and
The rule of law to actually mean something apart from idealistic words.
What the conservative justices are planning to do in the pending abortion case (Dobbs) is the seizure of power in its rawest form. It is ignoring 50 years of precedent; a precedent that was reaffirmed - strongly, might I add - in the 1990s (Planned Parenthood v. Casey).
This is the same court that effectively neutered the Voting Rights Act. The same court that has shown a penchant for disenfranchising minority voters, while giving unnecessary (and unchecked) power to corporations under the guise of “free speech” in elections.
They are not highlighting fatal flaws in legal reasoning or logical fallacies. They are following the conservative legal playbook that was written in the immediate aftermath of Roe v. Wade; a playbook that’s based on white, Christian values.
Instead of laughing and shrugging at the constituents who propagated these ideas in the past, Republicans now actively join in their crusade.
The theocratic takeover of America has only just begun.