June 11, 2019

June 11, 2019

The Supreme Court of the Republican Party? Last Sunday, close to a million people jammed the streets of Hong Kong to protest pending legislation that would permit the government of mainland China to extradite Hong Kong residents for whatever constitutes “crimes”—actual or ideological—in the eyes of Xi Jinping’s government. Yesterday, Carrie Lam, the CEO of Hong Kong’s Beijing-dominated government, said that she would continue to advance the extradition bill through the city’s also Beijing-dominated legislature, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents don’t want their justice system made an appendage of China’s. (At one million, the crowd that assembled Sunday constituted one-seventh of Hong Kong’s total population.) 

But Lam, though officially the CEO of Hong Kong, is actually a servant of Xi’s neo-totalitarian regime.

Lam isn’t the only powerful leader who serves a master distinct from the jurisdiction she’s supposed to serve. The five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court may well be poised to dispel forever any thoughts that their loyalty is to the United States.

Later this month, the justices will rule on two landmark cases. The first concerns whether the 2020 Census will be conducted as the Census always has, tallying every person who lives in the U.S., or whether it will include a new question asking respondents to say whether or not they’re citizens, which is intended to reduce the number of immigrants, or households with immigrants in them, who answer. That, in turn, would reduce the recorded population of immigrant-heavy states like California—which is to say, reduce the number of seats Democrats will hold in the House of Representatives following the 2020 redistricting.

The second case concerns the legality of gerrymandering by state legislatures, which in this age of computer-assisted demographic precision has enabled Republicans to so cluster various groups that they dominate state legislatures and congressional delegations even in states where Democrats outvote them statewide. (North Carolina and Pennsylvania are among the prime examples.) Gerrymandering at this level negates two fundamental premises of electoral democracy: majority rule, and the ability of electors to select their representatives (which in a gerrymandered state becomes the ability of representatives to select their electors).

In short, the Gang of Five—Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh—could misshape the electorate and thwart majority rule to the long-term advantage of a group to which they’ve pledge their true loyalty: the Republican Party. If they deliver such rulings—and recent remarks by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggest that they may well—they will have continued a long line of major decisions intended to cement Republican rule in place, even if a clear majority of the nation favors the Democrats. These prior decisions include those in Janus (designed to weaken public employee unions, which often have the most extensive voter mobilization campaigns during election time), Shelby (which decimated the Voting Rights Act and thereby loosed a wave of Republican voter suppression), Citizens United (enhancing the role of big corporate money in elections), and the granddaddy of them all, Bush v. Gore—no explanation required. Each of these rulings gave a clear partisan advantage to the Republicans, and two more such decisions may be right around the bend.

So just as Carrie Lam actually represents mainland China rather than the entity she nominally serves as CEO, so the chief justice and four associate justices of the United States may actually have taken their real and binding oaths to the Republican Party. We’ll see soon enough.