“Something Is Not Right Around the Court…”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speaking at the hearings for Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

At the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s ultra-conservative nominee to replace the late liberal giant Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Dem, RI) gave a remarkably clear and extremely important tutorial on the forces that are really moving the Supreme Court’s decision-making in ways large and small.

I hope you will view this video, which succinctly captures so much about why our government is failing to meet the needs of the American people.

With simple charts, Whitehouse clarified why the Republicans have placed such great emphasis on the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, and demonstrated the huge implications of the 80 decisions that were reached by the Roberts court with a 5/4 majority, unfailingly comprised of the Justices that had been appointed by Republican presidents.

Whitehouse outlined four issues: the influence of dark money originating from an overlapping series of sources; the “demeaning and diminishing of civil juries” (his description was eye-opening in its impact); the goal of total deregulation so these people can make their money unfettered by environmental, safety, or other concerns affecting the public; and voting–the Court reaching a decision “nobody needed against bipartisan legislation on no factual record.”

The latter, known as the Shelby decision, removed constraints that had prevented states from discriminating against minority voters–opening the floodgates for voter suppression and gerrymandering.

The impending outcome of these hearings will be the culmination of a 30-year campaign by right-wing influences to get a Court that serves their needs.

It’s worth noting that Whitehouse has focused his Senate efforts on two issues that he sees interrelated: climate change (which is critically important to Rhode Island, where the sea levels are predicted to rise by 9 to 12 inches this century) and the impact of money in politics.

He told Jeffrey Toobin in a New Yorker interview that climate change had once had bipartisan Congressional support until the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

That case and others like it, Toobin reported,

“freed corporate interests, especially oil-and-gas companies, to browbeat Republican legislators into withdrawing support for any climate-change legislation.”

After the primary defeat of a pro-climate change South Carolina Republican named Bob Inglis, Whitehouse stated, the group Americans for Prosperity, aligned with the far-right Koch brothers,

“said publicly that anybody who crossed them on climate change would be severely disadvantaged. They took credit for the political peril that they had created in stopping any Republican from going the green-energy route.”

I think Whitehouse did a huge service to the American public during these hearings by demonstrating why the Supreme Court has arrived at so many decisions that seem to be in opposition to majority sentiment and the public good.

With regard to the nominee, Judge Barrett appears to be a very knowledgeable and intelligent jurist--but one who has shredded her own integrity in her responses to questioning.

I’m not talking about her vague responses about Roe v Wade or Obamacare, though she was clearly nominated because her writings have demonstrated how she’ll vote on these issues of critical importance–sometimes life and death–to millions of Americans.

What troubled me is that, under oath, she couldn’t recall whether she’d heard Donald Trump’s comments that he planned to nominate Justices who would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Of equal concern is the fact that this self-described “originalist,” ostensibly a devoted adherent to the Constitution as it was written, would not say whether Trump has the power to delay the election or what the Supreme Court might do if he refuses to transfer power peacefully.

The answers to those questions lie clearly in that very document: Article II, Section 1; and the 20th Amendment. She had to have known that.

Thus, she showed herself totally lacking in independence–winking her thanks at President Trump for nominating her and stomping on the will of the electorate and the cornerstone of American democracy.

If you haven’t yet voted, please make sure you do–as soon as you can!!


32 thoughts on ““Something Is Not Right Around the Court…”

  1. I know that you’re well aware that very few people have or will ever see Whitehouse’s remarkable presentation.
    What I found most remarkable was the failure of Judge Barrett’s refusal to even acknowledge that trump cannot stop the election or that she would not answer the question about the peaceful transfer of power.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Dems will be obligated to do something. I wish the press would stop hounding Biden and Harris about “packing the courts”—and that when asked, they’d respond: “Why aren’t you focused on the fact that that’s exactly what’s going on now?”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is terrifying. Whitehouse is so clear, so thorough, so impressive. We need to clone him! What a fine mind — so sequential, factual, persuasive. Thank you so much for the video and your analysis. As an aside, I just had a check-up (all good, thanks for wondering) but I was struck at how the in-take forms so heavily focused on assessing one’s mental health. When I asked, i learned that apparently everyone is cracking apart under the stress of these despicable politics and pandemic — both things! — and the doc is keeping a closer eye on it. We need Whitehouse. We need Fauci. We need Biden. Thanks for your excellent work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad you’re ok—I have, in fact, been wondering. Your story is very troubling.

      We WILL get through this—and then we’ll be better able to assess how we deal with it all—as we must.

      And thanks, as always. I’m glad to have introduced you to Whitehouse’s brilliant and important presentation.


  3. The final act by Canada’s Prime Minister about to leave office, Jean Chretien, (Liberal) was to put a limit on how much ‘dark’ money could be donated to political agents (the maximum yearly contribution limit today is $1550 to a given federal political party, $1550 to a given party’s riding associations, $1550 to a given party’s leadership candidates, and $1550 for each independent candidate). Although there are some ways to get around this and not get caught, what this act did in effect is eliminate large corporate lobbying based on an exchange of votes for influence which, until that time, was growing by leaps and bounds just like the US. Later, Chretien who had been in office for over a decade through highly tumultuous times, said something to the effect that this more than any other piece of legislation he saw through to law, was his greatest achievement. He understood the power of dark money in politics and acted in the public interest… because he could.

    By far the loudest criticism came from lobbying firms and the oil and gas industry. For a time there was public subsidy for each percentage of popular vote for each officially recognized political party but a later Conservative government eliminated this subsidy claiming it was unfair to the average citizen to pay for parties they did not support. But it seems obvious that they did so because they were far better positioned to get financing from their voter base than all others. Still, the point is that fixing the influence of dark money must be a legislative priority to ‘drain the swamp’ and that it is possible even if unlikely.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m feeling discouraged about it all Annie…..I’ve watched bits of the hearing and it’s very clear what she’s all about. Harris did an excellent job grilling her, and made it even more obvious….she actually made her look far dumber than she seems….sorry if that is unkind, but she just doesn’t seem like Supreme Court material to me period. This is the best he could come up with? Most of Trumps choices aren’t good choices – they’re just overwhelmingly “yes” men and women which is why they get and take the job. The whole bit about being a practicing Catholic etc. give me a break…..any Christian who votes/sides with that poor excuse for a human being is approving of his bad behavior….and that’s hypocritical IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I quite agree, Joni. But trump hasn’t shown any interest in quality people—I don’t think that the idea of quality is something he thinks about or would recognize.

      But I’m hopeful that if we get a large enough Democratic mandate, we can address the Court’s influences in some way. Nicholas Kristof wrote in today’s NY Times the the issue shouldn’t be viewed as liberal vs conservative—it should be looking forward vs looking backward.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It is beyond me how anyone can refer to themselves as “pro life” when they’re in favor of denying health insurance to people with preexisting conditions, quashing legislation to address climate change, and giving the NRA free reign. But I fear that Barrett will side with the Supreme Court’s growing right-wing bloc on these issues. A major reason I wanted Trump to lose in 2016 was because I didn’t want him to fill the stolen Merrick Garland Supreme Court seat Now it looks like he and his minions will ram through a third high court appointment. Not very democratic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not Democratic—and such a blatant show of Republican hypocrisy! But if Dems win a mandate, they won’t allow this turning back of rights the majority of Americans have become accustomed to.


      1. Rights?

        Although these are important pieces of legislation with wide ramifications for the health and well being of many people, these are not rights. The rights that are under attack common to every citizen are coming from the Left and include clamping down on free speech, promoting discrimination on the basis of skin colour, actively supporting anti-Semitism, turning media and public schooling into indoctrination centers for critical race theory with rewritten history promoted by the NYTimes, and demonstrating support for every singel anti-liberal position. It is shocking and demeaning and revolting. These shifts trumpeted by the Democratic Left are very real threats to our rights and in sum are the main fuel for Trump’s campaign. The Left is eating itself, showing little tolerance for legitimate and necessary concern and criticism by typical middle-of-the-road centrist voters – lumping millions upon millions of voters as racists, bigots, and right wingers as a result – who are fearful of this creeping totalitarianism through the erosion of real rights by those calling it social justice rather than what it really is: anti-liberal anti-American ideology. That battle has been granted only to Trump and his minions of Republican enablers.

        If the Democrats lose this election, they have only themselves to blame for this abdication of the most basic civic responsibility.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The irritating thing is that the right seem to be so much more organised and focussed when it comes to their agenda. A disorganised and chaotic administration has still managed to pack the courts at every level, arguably securing a longer-lasting legacy than many administrations. In my opinion the centre left need to get better at the politicking of the system, without of course sacrificing their integrity and democracy…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That should have been the idea all along. But the anti-liberal ideologues of the extreme far Left have taken the reins to accommodate the Bernie camp, which is why Ocasio-Cortez can apologize to an anti-Semite like Linda Sarsour but decline attending a ceremony to commemorate assassinated peacemaker Rabin.

      If one tries to do as you suggest, MR, one faces a stark choice: either (uphold liberal values and fundamental rights against this ideological onslaught now and not accept that going along with it is the only way to address Trump and) get labelled a racist and/or bigot and an ally of the Right OR self censor and shut up and go along. This – and only this appeasement and capitulation approach by Democrats to the anti-liberals among us – has given any life at all to Trump. And if you think it’s bad now under Trump, wait to see what the public backlash looks like in 4 years if the Biden/Harris ticket doesn’t stand up to these social justice extremists. I fear a violent revolution… not because I believe it to be the case but because I have lots of family and friends through the US who tell me as much. And every one of them is a highly educated professional and not some under-educated yahoo.


      1. Which is why I’ve stated centre left rather than far left. I also acknowledge the gaming of the system as problematic if it is to adhere to democratic ideals. My only observation is that there seems to be an effective long term strategy from McConnell et al. which I don’t see evidence of from many dems. As I’ve said before on this blog I am not by any means an expert on US politics, but calling me under-educated without knowing me is rather childish.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ok, tildeb. You’ve made your views known repeatedly. The danger of violence according to the FBI and DHS is from the domestic terrorists on the right. They preceded trump, but he’s given them his embrace—with the silence of Republicans.
        No need to respond again.
        Note: I was unaware until just now that you had insulted one of my highly intelligent frequent commenters. I told you last time that I insist on civility. As this is the second time you have ignored my notification, you are no longer welcome to post your comments on my blog.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s regrettably correct, Matthew. This court effort by the right has been going on for decades, while the Democrats were simply not focused on the issue.
      And now poor Joe Biden is being hounded by the media about whether he’ll “pack the courts”—which is exactly what the Republicans have been doing all this time.
      I can’t imagine how dire things would be if trump had been smarter and even mildly disciplined.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Matthew,

    I apologize. I have informed this commenter before that she is to be civil or I will not permit her comments to appear on my blog. I regret I didn’t see her response before I saw yours.

    I am so impressed by your understanding of our system from across the pond—and very grateful for your interest and desire to comment.


      1. I have no objection when other people politely engage in thoughtful comments such as yours—and I’m sure you wouldn’t either. I’m glad you have a thick skin— but you shouldn’t need one to engage on my blog! But I’m relieved that I’m not going to lose you; that would be terrible!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. annie:

      I only come by on occasion having found your blog by following Infidel around while trolling for interesting commentary to post at Angry Bear, a small economics blog. I think it is important to allow some angry and conflicted commentary on site as it “definitely” exists in public in a not so polite manner. We can not hide from it.

      Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse took on a difficult task in explaining the flow of political and moneyed influence impacting our government today. The charted flow diagram presented and the dialogue detailing it made it easy for one to follow and understand the impact of a concerted effort to overwhelm our nation political processes (perhaps better words can be used to detail this?).Having done throughput analysis at plants and papering a conference room with the detail depicting how components or product is made, I could not have done better with his explanation on the invisible flow of money and political influence.

      Unfortunately, it will be forgotten as people move on after this election expecting a change in government with the election of Joe Biden. He will be stymied. Still one can hope the runoff in Georgia for the Senate will favor us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello, Bill H.

        I just “rescued” your comment from my spam folder. As to your first point about allowing anger here because it’s out there in real life, I’ve made it clear that I welcome reasoned dissent. I don’t welcome personal insults. I’ve had plenty of respectful disagreements on these posts, but my blog doesn’t have to mirror the worst of civilization. I feel very strongly about that.

        I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Senator Whitehouse on the corrosive effects of dark money, and he’ll have more of a platform now. I do worry about the Republicans’ determination to stop Biden at every turn, but I remain hopeful. I’m writing a piece now (for posting Saturday, November 14) about possible ways forward.

        And I’m donating to Ossoff and Warnock’s campaigns each month and encouraging everyone who feels similarly to dig deep, even if it’s just a small contribution. If the Senate is 50-50, it could make all the difference!

        Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll visit again.




  8. Thank you for this post. Whitehouse certainly lays it out. Like so many of us, I’m watching as this country evolves and as the highest court in the land has been, well, corrupted by those who will say whatever in their calculus is needed in an effort to advance their careers. Ugh. Here we are, then. As always, I am so grateful for those who are actively working to swing that pendulum more toward the center where perhaps the country’s needs figure before the power grabbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re most welcome, Denise. Whitehouse is one of a goodly number of legislators laboring hard for the American people. I lose patience with those who paint all politicians with the same crude brush.


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