The Federalist Society: A Right-Wing Neo-Conservative Power Base
Not many Americans know about The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, but they should because it is actually the most powerful part of the power base of the right-wing neo-conservative movement in America.
Of course, right-wing corporate forces and the “religious right” and their lobbyists and political financing organizations are also part of that power base. But, the Federalist Society is an organization with membership that includes politicians, attorneys, judges, and law school faculty members and students of like mind regarding the legal system. And they assert that “the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
That assertion is problematic, though, because the judiciary interprets the Constitution and the law, and lawyers and judges can differ in their interpretations. That is why the judiciary should be non-partisan, impartial, objective and fair, which is why “Justice” is often symbolized by a blindfolded woman with the scales of justice in her hand.
In spite of that, the Federalist Society made their assertion specifically to counter and even dismiss more impartial progressive interpretations of the Constitution, and they assume that their point of view is “right” and that progressive points of view merely reflect unrealistic, wishful thinking.
Now, it should be no surprise that the modern Federalist Society was established shortly after Ronald Reagan and the Reaganite Neo-Conservatives and the “Religious Right” rose to political power in 1981. However, it takes its name from The Federalist, a late 18th Century publication of Alexander Hamilton, who was a banker, the first Secretary of the Treasury, the principal writer of “The Federalists Papers,” and head of the Federalist Party.
Hamilton’s writings submitted a right-wing interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that has been cited ever since by Republicans. But, the Federalist Papers are in part bi-partisan, because one of the two other Founding Fathers who wrote some of them, James Madison, was a moderate progressive. And even though Madison agreed with Hamilton on some things, we should realize the deep ideological differences in their thinking and opinions on crucial matters.
James Madison was a not only a moderate progressive. He was very liberal in some ways. In fact, Madison was an ally and protege of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most progressive Founding Father. And Jefferson had been sharply opposed by Alexander Hamilton since they were in the cabinet of the first President, George Washington. Jefferson was the first Secretary of State and Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and their conflict and rivalry was well known.
John Jay was the third author of some of the Federalist Papers. He was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and he and Alexander Hamilton were what we would call right-wing conservatives. And they were not much different from their modern counterparts.
Basically, Hamilton believed that the U.S. should be a “Christian Meritocracy.” And John Jay said: “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Furthermore, John Jay also said that: “The people who own the country ought to govern it.”
In other words, they believed that the most wealthy and financially successful Christians rightfully deserved to rule and establish and maintain a “Christian Meritocracy.”
Unfortunately, while that sounds great to Reaganites today who would like to believe they are “Patriotic Christians,” Hamilton’s and Jay’s interpretation and definition of the Constitution in that regard was in violation of the most essential teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, in violation of the intent of most of the Founding Fathers, and in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
It was in direct violation of Article 6 of the Constitution (which states that there must be no religious test or requirement for office). It was also in direct violation of the First Amendment, which states there shall be no law concerning the establishment of religion. And that was clarified by Thomas Jefferson, who clearly wrote that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was to “build a wall of separation between church and state.”
Of course, most of the other Founding Fathers agreed with Jefferson about that (and much later during the 1940s the U.S. Supreme Court officially agreed). And most of the other Founding Fathers agreed with Jefferson that the Hamiltonian Federalists were "Royalists" akin to those of the British Empire, because they advocated and supported theocratic rule of wealthy "Christian" aristocracy.
Early on Alexander Hamilton and John Jay vehemently disagreed with the Jeffersonian ideals and principles of democracy, religious freedom and pluralism. And, even though later Republican President Abraham Lincoln said: "The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society," Hamilton, Jay and many subsequent right-wing politicians have disagreed. In fact, since 1982 many Reaganite Republicans on the “Religious Right” have taken the Hamiltonian Federalist view.
This is important because the Federalist Society has steadily and increasingly over the last 30 years been using the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to rig the political economic judicial system so that it serves the interests of the wealthiest few. After all, four justices on the U.S. Supreme Court (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito) are members, as have been and are many members of Congress, state legislatures, and state and federal judiciaries.
Just as the “Religious Right” selects isolated words, phrases and statements from the Bible to justify their hypocritical bigotry and theocratic political crusade for worldly power, so the Federalist Society selects isolated words, phrases and statements of certain Founding Fathers to justify their "conservative" right-wing ideology and agenda. But they all ignore basic, essential truths, and they misunderstand the testimony, messages, proposals and declarations that were intended for the benefit of all of us – not just the wealthiest few who believe they are entitled to rule.
Their Laissez Faire right-wing political ideology wrongly assumes that the wealthiest few and their large banks, businesses, corporations and insurance companies will operate honestly, ethically and fairly. But, the truth is that, given free rein, they usually do not. In fact, given free rein, their unbridled greed and corruption creates havoc, as has been shown time and time again. Furthermore, private charitable organizations cannot possibly provide all the help that is needed.
This truth has been painfully evident many times, especially between 1920 and 1931, and increasingly again during the last 30 years. It has been proven that it is simply not true that if you legislate to enable the rich get richer, what’s good for them will be good for everyone. That has always been a false, misleading claim, just as it has been since 1980 when corporate spokesman Ronald Reagan began to gain power by making it.
That’s why the rich have gotten so much richer, the middle class has shrunk, the working poor population has grown, and poverty, hunger and homelessness increased. It is similar to the historical consequences of Republican dominance in the 1910s and ‘20s, when the rich got richer and corrupt and caused the financial crisis and stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression.
That is why those who believe in Jeffersonian Democracy and in Roosevelt’s New Deal believe that government must properly and sufficiently regulate and oversee big businesses, corporations and banks, and that we must legislate to enable the vast majority to be prosperous, because widespread prosperity will benefit the whole country in many ways.
That’s been proven many times. Roosevelt’s New Deal and progressive successes in the 1930s and ‘40s enabled the Middle Class to grow very large and great by the late 1940s and ‘50s, making it very clear that widespread prosperity produces widespread well being. Moreover, it produces more prosperous taxpayers who can contribute more to make the whole country better.
That is why Americans need to recognize who's telling the truth and who is not. Hypocrites, false shepherds and false prophets have been fooling and pulling the wool over the eyes of too many Americans for too long. And even though they have been convinced they are "right," they are dead wrong.
The Right-Wing Neo-Conservative Movement
In his first two books, published in January and February of 2002, the son of man exposed the right-wing neo-conservative conspiracy that propelled Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1981, and it has been pushing the nation to the right ever since. And this article is gleaned from what he wrote then, and what he wrote since then.
The conspiracy really began early in Ronald Reagan’s political career, when he was the Screen Actor’s Guild President and joined Republican Senators Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon in slandering and “black listing” liberal progressives, labeling them as “Socialists” and “Communists.”
That, by the way, is called the "Second Red Scare" (the first being in the 1920s, which slandered progressives and enabled Republicans to rule). And, not coincidentally, it was very similar to what the Republican “Tea Party” has been doing ever since 2008 when Barack Obama became the front runner for president.
The right-wing conspiracy was furthered when Reagan became the television spokesman for the General Electric Corporation, and from 1954 to 1962 Reagan was carefully groomed and prepared as a politician by its top executives. (See Ronald Reagan’s Real Legacy.)
That conspiracy started to expand and grow when General Electric sent Ronald Reagan out on speaking tours to spread pro-corporate and anti-labor union propaganda around the country. It then grew significantly when Reagan became the Governor of California, but it really got influential and dominant nationwide in 1981 and 1982, as soon as he became president.
Ironically, the original Hamiltonian Federalist Party advocated a strong federal government, but, in stark contrast, these “new Federalists” work in the opposite direction, striving to use the courts and the legal system to considerably weaken the federal government, further empower big businesses, banks and corporations, and erode our constitutional individual rights and freedoms. In fact, their ideology and views are more akin to the southern confederated states during the Civil War, who fought against the central federal government so they could rule their own states and personal domains just as they pleased, without regulations or restraints established or enforced by the federal government.
The problem is that even though they don’t want anyone regulating their businesses or restricting their ability to conduct business however they want, that is precisely why there is such bitter partisan political conflict in America.
Ethical people of conscience always have and always will object to abuse of power, shameless greed, and unrestrained self-indulgence driven by self-interest – especially when it is at the expense of and to the detriment of others.
The Federalist Society was instrumental in enabling President Reagan to favor corporations while waging war on labor unions and human services recipients (who Reagan called “welfare cheats”). It was instrumental in enabling the Republican controlled Congress in the 1990s to enact right-wing legislation like the so-called “Welfare Reform,” which claimed to help but was actually designed to cut human services and make it difficult for government to promote the general welfare as it is supposed to
The Federalist Society then enabled George W. Bush to consistently rule from the far right, rather than from the middle as he initially promised he would. Many of the individuals he placed in key positions in the White House, the Justice Department, and throughout his administration, were members of the Federalist Society. And Bush was either in concert with them or acquiesced to them and gave them as much power as possible. Consequently, they used the courts and other mechanisms of government to fundamentally redefine federal powers and public policy, and rewrite constitutional and civil rights. And those mechanisms included the selection and screening of nominees to fill vacancies on the federal courts, as well as Supreme Court vacancies.
Of course, in a report at the time, Ralph G. Neas, President of People for the American Way (PFAW), said, “We do not question the right of Federalist Society members to influence the Bush administration’s decisions and policies. However, we do believe that it is important for the American people to know as much as possible about any group that wields this much power over policies and decisions that will affect their fundamental rights. It is in that spirit that this report has been produced.”
That report revealed that the Federalist Society exerted “a powerful influence.” It stated that “Despite its protestations that it is little more than a debating society, media from across the political spectrum agree that the organization carries tremendous clout. The Washington Times Insight magazine identified the group as the ‘single most influential organization in the conservative legal world.’ An article in Washington Monthly identified the Society as ‘quite simply the best-organized, best-funded, and most effective legal network operating in this country. … There is nothing like the Federalist Society on the Left.’”
To better inform the public, the PFAW report explored the Federalist Society and its members and allies, examining their legal and policy objectives, their prevailing philosophy, as well as the kind of impact they could have through their influence within the Bush administration, and on the law, the courts, the Constitution, and ordinary citizens.
The report revealed that the founding members of the Federalists Society were nurtured by right-wing conservative law professors such as Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia. A Society board included Judge Bork and William Bradford Reynolds, who was President Reagan’s assistant attorney general for civil rights. (And Reynolds was so controversial that when Reagan nominated him in 1985 for promotion to associate attorney general, he was defeated by a Senate Judiciary Committee led by Republicans from Reagan’s own party.)
Another Society board member, Gerald Walpin, has criticized the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision and has recommended setting aside the ruling that obligates police to inform suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have access to legal counsel. Walpin has also assailed court precedents guaranteeing our rights of free speech and free expression.
Also serving on a Society board was University of Virginia law professor Lillian BeVier, who condemns the Roe v. Wade decision (which ensures a woman’s reproductive rights) as “a perversion.” BeVier also sat on the advisory board of the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), which seeks to dismantle the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. BeVier was nominated by the elder President Bush to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but she was so controversial she didn’t receive one vote in Congress.
Among the Society’s funding sources is the Bradley Foundation, which has used much of its financial resources to promote school vouchers and attack affirmative action and welfare programs. It has a history of funding right-wing causes. For example, it provided a grant to support David Brock’s 1992 book The Real Anita Hill, which was designed to ruin her reputation and clear the way for Clarence Thomas’ appointment for the Supreme Court. (Brock has recently recanted his book’s claims about Anita Hill, admitting that pressure from right-wing Republican operatives encouraged him to be dishonest.)
The Bradley Foundation also awarded a grant to Charles Murray, who co-wrote the highly controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve. It was widely criticized by scholars as racist and statistically unsound. An earlier book that Murray wrote, Losing Ground, was also widely criticized because it argued that poverty does not result from economic dislocation or discrimination or unfairness, but from the personal failings of the poor and the working poor. However, that blame-the-victim view has been soundly denounced and refuted by experts and credible research (see the article on Poverty: America’s Greatest Shame).
Another funding source for the Society is the Scaife Foundation. It has also funded a long list of right-wing efforts, including the American Spectator and its “Arkansas Project,” a $2.4 million campaign that was launched to gather information for the expressed purpose of damaging the reputation of former President Bill Clinton to force him out of office. (That’s why Hillary Clinton was quite right when she said her husband was the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy, because that campaign against Clinton ultimately resulted in his impeachment by right-wing House Republicans.)
Another Society funding source is the Koch Foundation, established by Charles Koch, the heir to Koch Industries, an oil refining and petrochemical company. It was built a generation ago by Fred Koch, who was also one of the founders of the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society. His heir Charles Koch is also a co-founder of the Cato Institute, an extremely right-wing conservative think-tank that espouses all kinds of right-wing causes. For example, the Cato Institute has worked against public school reform because they are in favor of taxpayer-supported school vouchers for private schools. They have also done things such as proposing that individual states should be allowed to choose “whether to accept any increase” in the minimum wage.
The Society has a “Pre-law Reading List” of recommended reading for law students and other interested parties. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia’s 1997 book, Matter of Interpretation, is thereon listed and recommended. That book was reviewed in The Nation by Garrett Epps, who wrote that “Scalia finds no democratic value in guarantees against oppression of electoral minorities” and “believes elected bodies should be able to do whatever they want without a lot of whining from the losers.” (Remember, Scalia is one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices that put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000 with a very controversial, highly partisan vote.)
Richard A. Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor and another author with books on the Society’s reading list, wrote the 1992 book Forbidden Grounds: The Case Against Employment Discrimination Laws. In that book Epstein attacked federal laws protecting civil rights in the workplace. In another book, The Mistakes of 1937, he attacked two 1937 Supreme Court rulings, one of which enabled the federal government to regulate labor markets and protect workers. He claimed that the ruling was unjustified even if the purpose was to protect public health and safety. He wrote that “If someone wants to take risks with health and safety in order to obtain a higher wage, then so much the better.”
The biggest contributor to the Society’s reading list is Lino Graglia, a University of Texas law professor who has vehemently opposed civil rights legislation. In one article, Graglia condemned the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted more than 200 years ago as part of the original Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the right to a jury in a civil trial.
The right-wing neo-conservative Graglia dismissed that guarantee as “an unnecessary inconvenience.” In the same article, he contended that the equal protection clause of the Constitution does not prevent states from discriminating on the basis of such factors as sex or nationality. In another article, he espoused even more shocking views, criticizing the Seventeenth Amendment. It permits the American citizenry instead of state legislatures to directly elect U.S. senators, but Graglia claimed that merely weakens “state autonomy.”
In another article, Graglia complained about the 1860s Lincoln Administration decision to not permit southern states to leave the union. Graglia argued that by refusing to accept the South’s secession and choosing to engage in the Civil War to stop it, the North deprived the South of “the right of freedom of disassociation.” He argued that “The loss of the right to secede cost the (southern) states their ultimate defense against national encroachment.” (He misses the point of the Civil War, which was to not allow states’ rights to be distorted and misused by rogue states that violate human rights.)
Graglia’s extreme right-wing views include a racist declaration that Mexican American and African American students are not academically competitive with white students, due largely to “cultural effects.” He also used the racially derogatory word “pickaninny” to refer to African American students in his classes. His remarks have drawn widespread criticism and have even prompted a resolution denouncing his statements to be drafted in the Georgia House of Representatives. A University of Texas regent has also called Graglia’s comments “cruel and insensitive lies.” But as shocking as his views are, they are endorsed by the Federalist Society for students who want to learn about “the historical process that deformed many areas of constitutional law...”
The Society’s “Journalist’s Guide to Legal Experts” is an Internet site inventory of attorneys and scholars for news media referral. It offers additional evidence of the group’s over-riding extreme right-wing philosophy. For example, all three people listed as “gay rights law experts” actually hold views that are hostile to gay rights. One of those “experts” is David M. Wagner, a law professor at Regent University, which was founded by right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson.
Similarly, on the issue of assault weapons, the Federalist Society recommends two experts for the media to contact: Nelson Lund of George Mason University Law School and Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. Both have such right-wing anti-gun control views that the National Rifle Association (NRA) also recommends them as “experts” for media interviews. In fact, an NRA press statement last year urged the media to interview Lund and Volokh, noting that both of them could be reached through the NRA’s own public affairs office. Moreover, Volokh co-wrote a 1999 article entitled “Loaded Guns Can Be Good for Kids,” in which he and co-author Dave Kopel strongly criticized a federal proposal to require guns to be sold with safety locks.
Led by such right-wing ideologues, the Federalist Society has grown substantially over the years. Amazingly, according to a January 2001 report by the Institute for Democracy Studies, the Society’s membership then included over 40,000 lawyers, policy analysts, political and business leaders and others. In addition, the Society’s membership included 5,000 law students at roughly 140 law schools. Now it boasts of having many more.
Despite the Federalist Society’s obvious ideological right-wing bent, its spokespersons claim that the organization has no desire to convert its ideology into legislative, judicial, or political action. They claim that the Society’s charter “is to create discussion, not to lobby,” and that the Society is merely “a forum for discussion of law and public policy from both sides.” That, unfortunately, is not true.
It is quite evident that the Society aggressively advocates, promotes, and implements its ideological right-wing point of view. In fact, instead of pushing change piecemeal, one lawsuit or one bill at a time, the Society seeks to produce broad sweeping change by altering the entire legal landscape. This includes promoting and developing extreme right-wing political positions, influencing federal and state governments with those positions, guiding law students and young lawyers accordingly, and influencing and determining who will become judges, top government officials, and decision and policy makers.
Operating from its own distorted, up-side-down concept of “federalism,” the Society organization seeks to limit federal authority to areas such as national defense, and cede most other powers to the states. In other words, they have been effectively waging the second Civil War, only legally. And even though we should respect the right of state governments to make certain appropriate decisions, the Society goes to extremes by seeking to block the ability of the federal government to enact and enforce nationwide laws protecting workers, employees, the environment, civil rights, workplace health and safety, among other things. Again, they want to conduct business as they see fit, with no federal regulations or safeguards that protect the average people, the public, the environment, etc.
Prominent Society members have even led efforts to utilize their legal theories to limit civil rights and protections for women. For instance, as a defense attorney in a rape case before the Supreme Court, Michael Rosman, a leading figure in the Society, argued against the constitutionality of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Rosman’s case was bolstered by a friend-of-the-court brief filed by another prominent Society member, Jeffrey Sutton. The result was a narrow 5-4 decision by the Court striking down key provisions of the Act which protected women.
Sutton, by the way, was nominated by President George W. Bush for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, despite Sutton’s role in harming civil rights and other protections through his distorted view of federalism. Then Sutton argued the University of Alabama v. Garrett case in the Supreme Court. It produced a 5-4 decision that state employees who suffered discrimination could not sue under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to seek damages from the state. Even though the ADA has enjoyed the support of many prominent Republicans (including former Senator Robert Dole and former President Bush the elder, who signed the ADA into law), Sutton claimed that the law is unnecessary and argued for an even broader Court ruling against the ADA.
Many other key leaders in the Federalist Society have campaigned to dramatically undermine civil and constitutional rights and protections. One is Michael Carvin, a founder of the Center for Individual Rights, an ultra-right-wing legal organization. He got the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that the University of Texas’ Law School’s desire to achieve diversity is not a sufficiently compelling state interest to support affirmative action in admissions. Ironically, Carvin had also worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and was a former Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department under President Reagan.
Even so, the Society’s power grew when President George W. Bush announced the end of the role of the American Bar Association (ABA) in reviewing the qualifications of potential judicial nominees for the federal courts. Bush did that even though the ABA had traditionally provided an important service to the nation and to presidents of both parties by reviewing potential court nominees in a fair, nonpartisan manner. More specifically, he did it because the Federalist Society members had taken actions against the ABA trying to terminate the ABA’s nearly half-century-old service.
The Society’s war against the ABA was revenge for a perceived wrong against one of the Society’s founders, Robert Bork. As a Supreme Court nominee, Bork had received a “not qualified” ratings from four of the 15 members of an ABA panel, while he received an overall rating of “well-qualified” from the other 11 Society members who were angered that they outvoted. Because Bork was rejected by the Senate, the disgruntled Society members began an in-depth “investigation” of the ABA’s activities.
In 1997, then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orin Hatch, a Federalist Society member added fuel to the fire. He announced in a letter that he would “no longer consider the ABA as enjoying an official Senate role in the confirmation process for federal judges.” Just prior to that, Hatch had given a speech to one of the Society’s law school chapters attacking the ABA’s “political” nature, specifically citing the Society’s ABA Watch publication as a source.
One year earlier, one of the key people to testify at Senate hearings questioning the ABA’s role was Edwin Meese, a Society leader who served as President Reagan’s attorney general. Despite Hatch and Meese, however, the ABA was still allowed to continue its work with the White House (under the Clinton Administration) in its pre-nomination review of court nominees. Then it was stopped in 2001 by President Bush.
Thus Bush finished what Reagan started. For the Society’s members influenced judicial nomination decisions in the Reagan and the elder Bush’s administrations. Roger J. Miner, a senior federal appeals court judge appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, observed that “all candidates for federal judgeships are examined for ideological purity.” Additionally, as a former Supreme Court law clerk has observed, membership in the Society “became a prerequisite” for law students seeking clerkships with many Reagan judicial appointees, as well as for top positions in the Justice Department and the White House.
All this is extremely important because the Society has been zealous in ensuring that vacancies on the federal courts and the U.S. Courts of Appeals are filled by right-wing conservatives. The Republican-controlled Senate during the Clinton Administration simply refused to vote or even to conduct hearings on President Clinton’s judicial nominees. Right-wing Senators Trent Lott, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Hatch, and Ashcroft blocked almost all Clinton nominees. Only one of Clinton’s judicial nominees even made it to the Senate floor, and was defeated. In all other cases, Senate Republicans effectively ended Clinton’s nominations by preventing any vote at all.
That changed radically with George W. Bush in the White House. Right-wing Republicans aggressively worked for congressional approval of Bush’s conservative judicial appointees. In fact, they tried and often succeeded to ram them through without proper or sufficient hearings, and threatened holding up critical legislation unless they got their way. Democrats were left just trying to establish the rule of law and trying to keep things honest and above board.
In March 2001 the Federalist Society sponsored a conference called “Rolling Back the New Deal,” furthering the Reaganite agenda. You see, Republican conservatives don’t like the New Deal because its programs incorporated liberal ideas that were implemented by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the 1930s to restrain the forces of greed and self-interest, regulate business and commerce, provide safeguards and a safety net for those who need it, and pull the U.S. out of a very deep depression caused by Republican corruption.
The basic idea of Roosevelt’s New Deal was that the powers of government should be used to achieve a redistribution of political and economic power in society to protect and benefit the vast majority of people. In other words, it put government in the business of promoting the general welfare (as it is supposed to) and protecting the people from the abuse of the power of wealth. And, of course, that is why right-wing conservatives have been steadily hammering away at such liberal programs for the last thirty years, and they have had a lot of success weakening, damaging, and dismantling many of them.
The right-wing conservative ideology “justified” George W. Bush’s words, actions, policies and appointments. And, in addition to filling all the vacancies in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, President Bush was able to appoint two more Supreme Court justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. He appointed Samuel Alito and John Roberts, which has proven disastrous in further empowering corporations in their ability to influence elections. It has fundamentally altered the entire federal judiciary and endangered bedrock constitutional rights and civil rights throughout the country, and it could for decades to come (unless we establish reforms).
As the People For the American Way Foundation warned in its 2000 report, Courting Disaster, a right-wing Supreme Court majority that were members of the Federalist Society would put at grave risk many of the most fundamental rights and liberties that Americans have come to take for granted. They could overturn many key precedents protecting a wide range of civil and constitutional rights, the right to privacy, reproductive freedom, civil rights, religious liberties, environmental protection, worker and consumer rights, and many other fundamental rights and safeguards. And they indeed have.
Under Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Thomas, Scalia and any who side with them, the U.S. Supreme Court has made some horrible decisions, including the decision to allow giant corporations to invest as much money as they want in political campaigns and political advertisements. Known as Citizens United vs. FEC, it wound up dictating that private businesses, including for-profit corporations, have a right to spend as much money as they want to elect or defeat candidates in political campaigns at all levels. That decision reversed numerous Supreme Court precedents and dozens of long-standing campaign finance laws at the federal and state level, enabling corporations to establish what could be called a Corporatocracy (even more than they already have).
It apparently wasn’t enough that corporate funding of political campaigns had already driven the ad wars, and corporate lobbyists wield all the power that money can buy to influence and bribe members of Congress.
For example, watch this video of the Sixty Minutes interview of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And consider that just in the first three months of 2009 the corporations and industries spent at least $500 Million on lobbying to influence politicians in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $47 Million last year on political issue ads on TV, mostly against health care reform, and they spent another $144 Million on lobbying Congress to fight regulation of corporations.
In fact, the Chamber is the most powerful influence on the public and on Congress, serving the interest of profit-making corporations to the detriment of the environment and the public. And now, the court’s ruling has enabled new right-wing groups like the American Action Network (ANN), which paid for slanderous, misleading and often false attack ads against Democrats in the 2010 mid-term election season and during the fight over health care reform. It’s funded by the ultra wealthy and their corporations, and its board consists of right-wing Republican politicians and millionaire and billionaire businessmen, industrialists and financiers.
Perhaps even more telling is that the wealthiest one percent of Americans have in recent presidential elections provided 80 percent of the financial funding for the political campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats. But they know who serves their interests most obediently, and their servants include five member of the Supreme Court. That’s why even before the Court renders its decision in the McComish v. Bennett case (another Arizona Republican effort to drive another nail in the coffin of campaign finance reform), it’s easy to see what the decision will be.
That is why money has ruled so completely, and money still rules – even more. The powers-that-be are the wealthiest few, and they serve their own interests at our expense.
The extremely partisan, right-wing Court serves the interests of the wealthiest few and the U.S. Religious Military Industrial Police State that enables and protects them and the wealthiest Americans. But it is detrimental to the majority of Americans, and to the vast majority of other people in the world. And yet over the last 30 years it has increasingly been indulged and inflated by those who have claimed to be religious and patriotic citizens who serve God and Country, when in fact they are among the deceptive forces of greed and self-interest.
Unfortunately, most Americans are not aware of the extreme nature of the positions that have been advocated by the Federalist Society and its leaders, which put them far from the mainstream of beliefs shared by most Americans and enshrined in decades of constitutional jurisprudence and national policy. The leading voices of the Federalist Society share an ideology that is hostile to true federalism, and hostile to civil rights, reproductive rights, religious liberties, environmental protection, privacy rights, and health and safety standards, and would totally strip our federal government of the power to enforce these rights and protections. In other words, the Federalist Society is hostile to the American Way.
The American Way vs The Federalist Society
The People for the American Way Foundation is to be applauded for its work, especially since it is one of the very few organizations willing to keep watch on the powerful ruling Right. Most so-called “moral watch-dog” groups are actually right-wing organizations going under blatantly deceptive names (like Federalist Society, Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Citizens for Excellence in Education, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, Family Research Council, American Family Association, Heritage Foundation, Center for Individual Rights, etc.). The People for the American Way, on the other hand, actually is a moral watch-dog group, whose name says what it actually is.
Even so, the People for the American Way Foundation doesn’t go far enough. In the first place, our judges should not be nominated by a partisan chief executive who seeks to further a partisan political agenda. That is the least fair method of selecting judges. Nominations for judgeships should be made by a collective body representing the vast majority of judges and law professors. Potential judicial nominees should be screened by an unbiased, non-partisan group that strives to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that potential judges be non-partisan, unbiased, impartial, neutral, and fair. That is absolutely crucial. It is the only way to have a fair and just judiciary.
As it is and has been, judges are nominated by partisan presidents precisely because of their partisan ideology, and the record shows that Republicans have been the most underhanded and partisan about it. That has created the disgraceful situation that we have now, with judges sitting on courts, and even on the U.S. Supreme Court, who claim to be fair when they obviously follow a right-wing partisan political agenda. This is an abhorrent situation that must be corrected as soon as possible.
Furthermore, we should ensure not only that judges are selected fairly and properly. We should also ensure that we can replace any judge any time we want. Lifetime judgeships give a judge ultimate and absolute power to determine the course of people’s lives, but leave the people little recourse when a judge does not serve their interests. We must have the power to make sure that sitting judges serve the interests of the people.
It is time that we, the people, utterly reject and denounce the right-wing conservative agenda. Their arrogance, hypocrisy, bigotry and deception must be repudiated and rebuked, and they must be reminded of true Christian values and true moral principles. The coming reformation must root out all the bad things that were snuck in, particularly during the last three decades, so we can restore the good that was accomplished in the last century, and create even better things for the future.