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The winds are changing and with change comes unrest. One side says “Roe v Wade is established law.” The other side says “Plessy v Ferguson was established law for two-thirds of a century. Sometimes established law can and should be overturned.” And with this, each side makes it clear they intend to do their best to push and pull and otherwise influence the Supreme Court to decide in their favor.
Except that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. The Supreme Court is supposed to uphold the Constitution, not bend to political will. Yet our Supreme Court Justices are referred to as liberal judges and conservative judges. This is not new. These terms have been used for decades. How did we come to this place?
If you go to the Supreme Court’s official website, they describe themselves as “the final arbiter of the law.” Further down the page, they state “When the Supreme Court rules on a constitutional issue, that judgment is virtually final; its decisions can be altered only by the rarely used procedure of constitutional amendment or by a new ruling of the Court.” I was taught these same things in grade school. I was also taught our government was built on the concept of checks and balances. When I asked my teacher how can the Supreme Court be the final arbiter of the law in a system based on checks and balances, the answer was basically “because” and like a good student, I accepted this and moved on. As an adult, I no longer accept that answer.
The issue that most Americans will miss, the true lesson that needs to be learned from all the controversy over Roe v Wade as well as cases like Plessy v Ferguson and the many other political decisions made by what is supposed to be a neutral court, is that the court is not neutral. This is likely due to the fact that it is considered to be the final arbiter of the law. That’s a lot of pressure to do the right thing. If these decisions only affected the people who came to court, such politics wouldn’t matter to the vast majority of us. But these decisions do affect us all, and because of this, proper checks and balances are needed as much here as they are in the other branches of government.
It is the Supreme Court that should be up for review. An amendment should be passed which officially incorporates judicial review into the Constitution along with a method to ensure that the rights of the people are protected. The court should be restrained from making political decisions and giving the government powers the Constitution does not enumerate based on loose readings of whatever clause or phrase is convenient at the moment. And measures should be incorporated which stop efforts to manipulate the court by methods like stacking the court.
In the end, we should do what we can to ensure the Supreme Court is not subject to the influence of changing political winds.