In downtown Baltimore we have a statue of one of the worst Americans in our collective history. That would be Roger B. Taney, the author of the Dred Scott decision. Everything about Taney screamed partisan hack. It was his life’s story. He was a white supremacist who firmly believed that “American Exceptionalism” was “White Exceptionalism”. It is a world view that still fuels the Romney campaign and the modern conservative movement.
The Dred Scott decision was infamous for many things. It overturned decades of settled law in an attempt to force a political solution in favor of the Southern Aristocrats that Taney sought to please. The ruling also sought to end any powers of the Federal government to limit the Galtian overlords of his day.
In his Dred Scott decision Taney defined the term “American citizen” in a manner that is still fully embraced by today’s conservative movement:
The words “people of the United States” and “citizens” are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the “sovereign people,” and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.
It was exclusionary. Only white people had rights in Taney’s America and some white folks–the elites–had more rights than “regular” citizens. In Taney’s America, folks had to bend the knee to their betters–especially the white elites of his time who ran an economic system based on the theft of labor. This notion that citizenship in America is a limited and restrictive “right” is a core belief that the conservative movement has been working to fully reestablish ever since they got their ass kicked in the Civil War. And now to their collective horror one of the “subordinate and inferior class of beings” that Taney identified in Dred Scott has become President of the United States. This, more than anything else, is the source of wingnut rage at Barack Obama.
Conservatives and White Exceptionalists has always fought to defend Taney and his ideas, but for a long, long time Taney and his Court have been a stain on the integrity and honor of America. That is changing. His views that American Exceptionalism = White Exceptionalism is the core principle of conservative politics. The Taney Court is a role model for Teabaggers, wingnuts and the Roberts Court–and Roger B. Taney is the Chief Justice role model for John Roberts.
Like Taney, Roberts practiced considerable judicial overreach so that his Court could be in the business of deciding who is a proper “American Citizen” and what kinds of rights various classes of “citizens” should be allowed to enjoy. Both decided that only “American Citizens” who fit within the boundaries of their biases should be entitled to most rights and that any lessor classes of “citizens” that they establish should have fewer rights. Both Courts decided that the definition of these rights should be always be decided in a manner that helped the elites who put them into power. For Taney that meant subtraction: he identified an entire groups of people in America–people of color–and decided that they would no longer have any rights. Taney made them all non-citizens with a scratch of his pen. For Roberts it was addition. In his Citizens United case he created a super class of citizens–corporations and the wealthy–whom he granted rights and privileged far, far beyond the rights regular Americans enjoyed as a birthright. In both cases these partisan hacks twisted the Constitution and overturned decades of established law to please their galtian overlords.
During his years as Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney destroyed the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and the rule of law in the United States. That destruction led to the Civil War. I think that it is a safe bet, that by this time Thursday, John Roberts and his conservative majority will have followed in the footsteps of Taney and destroy the legitimacy of the SCOTUS and the rule of law in our era.
If the Health Care Law had been passed by Bush, Roberts and company would vote for it–no questions asked. But it was passed by that Black man in the White House, so they must reverse themselves. No wonder Tony was so bitchy on Monday, he’s been twisting himself into knots trying to justify his coming flip-flops of long standing legal opinions.
In his Dred Scott decision, Roger B. Taney made his white surpremacist views painfully clear when he wrote that Negroes in America:
…. had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…
For the Roberts Court and the conservative movement in America that is still painfully true. They can find nothing about Barack Obama to respect. They will say or do anything to make this painfully clear. To prove the point, the Republican House will hold a vote to symbolically lynch Eric Holder on Thursday, just because they feel like it and just because they can.
This is how a Nation of Laws is destroyed.
I expect John Roberts to lead that destruction. I expect a ruling on Thursday that will complete the transition of the SCOTUS into just another ultra-partisan body that puts short term “victories” and their political team above the Law, the Constitution, and the Nation. Once the rule of law is destroyed, we will pay the price as a Nation. It happen before and it will happen again. I only hope it will not be a price steeped in blood, but that is what we had to pay to cover tab for the Taney Court. I expect that paying the tab of John Roberts and his Court will lead to a similar outcome.
I would like to be wrong, but somehow when it comes to wingnuts, things always turnout worse than you can imagine. And under John Roberts, the SCOTUS is wingnut central comand.