Blogs > HNN > Full Court Press - By Karyn Strickler

Oct 18, 2004 12:37 pm

Full Court Press - By Karyn Strickler

National progressive groups, devotees of The Do Nothing Strategy (, have been playing a defensive game for two and a half decades. You can count on one hand the legislative advances they have gained in that period – even when the Democrats were in control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Consequently, one thing has stood between the right-wing and their corporate-police state for the past quarter century – America’s Federal Circuit and United States Supreme Courts.

Leaving the right to choose safe and legal abortion, the environment, privacy rights, civil rights, and voting rights in the hands of George W. Bush court appointees, is courting disaster on these issues. Four more years of Bush court appointees could cause a retrograde, redefinition of America’s position on constitutional issues -- like freedom of speech, separation of church and state and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure -- for the next fifty years.

Recently, I was driving past our nation’s Capitol on my way home from a recreational league football game with my son -- just your average Saturday afternoon in America. In a bygone era, I would have proceeded past my Capitol unabated, as I should have been free to do on this day.

Instead, an armed police officer stopped me. After waiving two cars ahead of mine through the road block, she asked if I minded if she searched my car. She had no cause to search my car and she wasn’t getting my consent. My face flushed with anger and I said, “You bet I mind if you search my car.”

The police officer told me that I would have to turn my car around and go back the way I had come. I explained that my destination was straight ahead and besides, “That is my Capitol,” pointing in its direction, and “I have a right to drive past it without being searched.”

She radioed her supervisor and said, “I have an irate female in a red Subaru,” and gave my tag numbers.

With my blood pressure rising, I asked, “Isn’t this America? What ever happened to our constitutional right to freedom from unreasonable search?”

A police office whose salary I pay with my tax dollars was denying me access to a road, which my tax dollars built and maintain, past my nation’s Capitol, representing the freedom for which my ancestors fought, unless I consented to a search of my private property.

The police officer assumed a crouched position, fixed her gaze on me and muttered something else into her radio.

In order to avoid arrest or being shot for the terrible crime of not allowing a police search prior to driving past my Capitol - crowned by Freedom Lady on Independence Avenue - I turned my car around, drove through 3 more police check points, went an hour out of my way and finally arrived at home.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...”

The definition of “unreasonable,” depends on who is interpreting it. In that bygone era of which I spoke, random vehicle stops were too intrusive and the government’s interests did not outweigh citizens’ legitimate expectations of privacy. But the police state that has intruded into our daily lives could be institutionalized by a George W. Bush court system and such searches may be deemed reasonable to protect us from terrorists. I don’t choose to give up my liberty for a little false security.

This Presidential election isn’t about which administration is in power for the next four years, it’s about the direction of America for the next half-century, since judicial appointments are for life.

Absolute-blood-oath, litmus tests and deliberate court packing strategy became vogue during the Reagan Era and have become a proud Republican tradition lauded and applauded by the most extremist elements of the Party.

With many fundamental rights and liberties currently hanging in a 5-4 balance on the
U. S. Supreme Court, and several retirements expected over the Presidential term due to the advancing age and ill-health of some Justices, the winner of the November election could fill up to 4 Supreme Court slots.

In 2000, William Rehnquist cast the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore, ending the recount and making George W. Bush President of the U.S. The Alliance for Justice says, “[T]he triumph of the [Ronald] Reagan and [George H. W.] Bush court packing strategy and the long-term ramifications of that strategy can be no more dramatically illustrated than in the installation of George W. Bush as President by the five Reagan/Bush appointees, including Rehnquist, who formed the majority of Bush v. Gore.”

Voting rights are in jeopardy. According to People for the American Way, one more right-wing vote on the Court would preclude forever, any opportunity to challenge even the most egregious, partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts.

Redistricting determines the partisan make-up of state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, which in turn sets our state and national legislative agendas. Voters are supposed to select their Congressmen, but partisan gerrymandering has created a situation where very few U.S. Congressional seats are competitive, in effect allowing Congressmen to choose their voters.

People for the American Way says further, “Current far-right Justices Scalia and Thomas want to go even further and overturn 30 years of Supreme Court decisions that protect minority voting rights.”

As cases of asthma in children rise, the Court could severely reverse progress on environmental protection by taking away the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to stop industrial air pollution when state agencies don’t protect their citizen’s health from dirty air. An extremist majority on the Court would likely deal a death blow to the Endangered Species Act, the wildly popular law that brought the Bald Eagle, our American symbol, back from the brink of extinction.

President Bush made it clear that right-wing Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are his models for Supreme Court appointments. Scalia, who should be a guardian of Constitutional protection afforded American citizens, said after a speech at John Carroll University in Cleveland, “Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires." Scalia said that in wartime, one can expect "the protections will be ratcheted right down to the constitutional minimum."

Justice Thomas has indicated that he would “have upheld indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without any rights on American soil,” according to a report by People for the American Way. And the Court would not have allowed detainees at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their indefinite detention in federal court with a Thomas-Scalia majority.

The advances made by the women’s movement in the 1970’s are in for a major set-back with a Scalia-Thomas majority. NARAL Pro-Choice America reminds us that, “The retirement of a single United States Supreme Court Justice could have a dramatic impact on the constitutional protection of a woman’s right to choose. The two most significant cases dealing with reproductive rights in the last decade have been decided by the narrowest of margins, a vote of 5-4.”

It is also the obligation of the President to make appointments to the Federal Circuit Courts. Today the decisions of that court system reflect the fact that 11 out of 13 Federal Circuit Courts are majority Republican.

While I don’t like John Kerry’s position on the war in Iraq or his woefully inadequate environmental protection program, am turned-off by his pandering to swing voters and fully understand his short-comings, I’m unwilling to allow George W. Bush to make the critical court appointments that will set America’s course for the next half-century.

Copyright Karyn Strickler, a campaign expert, activist, and writer living outside Washington, DC. You can reach her at .

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More Comments:

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

But that's only women. Children and men have no choice.

The bizarre arrogance of this has made women insufferable. Allowing only women the right to choose to kill isn't just immoral... it is destroying the intellect and the basic spirituality of women.

I hope Ms. Strickler is right. I hope that Prez Bush is re-elected and that she has to start being responsible for her own sexuality instead of blaming men.

This is really loathesome stuff. Or as my wife is inclined to say, "Maybe Ms. Strickler should have been aborted." This is really the only answer to an arrogant buffoon who argues that she alone has the right to kill.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Your response is not really a thought... it is a bumper sticker. Sorry to be so blunt.

I suggest that you really consider my argument, which is that according women the right to kill is destroying them morally.

Women have no "unique responsibilities" in this regard. This is just sophistry. Women are designed by God for one purpose, men for another.

Giving women the right to murder with impunity is destroying the very women who feel that they are triumphing as a result. It is a moral catastrophe. I suggest that you think beyond the bumper sticker level. I am arguing that abortion is destroying the very people who think they are being saved by it.

Why should women be freed from responsibility for their sexual actions? For the past 20 years, we have hounded, arrested, imprisoned and impoverished men who fail to take responsibility for their sexual actions.

My advice to Ms. Strickler is to keep her panties on if she doesn't want to be pregnant. And, face it, Mr. Chamberlain, that is undoubtedly the response you would give to a man.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Chamberlain, you've kind of ignored my main point. I suggest you read the work of Stephen Baskerville as illustration.

For at least the past 15 years, we've hounded, arrested, imprisoned and impoverished millions of men for the crime of fathering a child. Nobody seems to think that men have the right to be irresponsible in their sexual behavior. We hold men responsible for their sexual behavior as a matter of course.

The exceptions you've cited deserve some thought, but the reality is that millions of women are using abortion as birth control. Why are you excusing women from responsibility for their sexual behavior?

Once again, I'd suggest that the solution is to demand true equality, in terms of sexual responsiblity. Ladies, if you don't want to be pregnant, keep those panties up.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/25/2004

You are right that your main point--or at least this main point--eluded me. I've looked up Baskerville; for the moment I'm finding more material on the question of divorce than on abortion and the right of women to choose it. Here again, I tend to expect that our core beliefs about abortion would still lead us to different conclusions.

The divorce question is an interesting one. I find his approach too polemical, but one of his points, that the relationship between government and families is pretty dysfunctional, does have some merit.

The question of child support is also interesting; I would point out that Baskerville himself notes that men in power have paid too little attention to the questions of how best to raise children. If this absence reflects our business culture's tendencies to reward men who are willing to ignore families as opposed to their profession, then the abuses that you and Baskerville perceive remind us that these actions began as responses to existing problems.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/25/2004

Re: bumper stickers

I don't consider abortion murder but the termination of a potential life.

Of course your position is equally simple: abortion is murder and the taking of life.

Between us is a vast difference; yet either position could fit on a bumper sticker.

Re: Women, men and choice

I do not know how absolute your position is on abortion. However, as best as I can tell, most people who oppose abortion are willing to grant exceptions. (Not even Roe v. Wade allows abortion in all circumstances)

So if abortion is sometimes allowable and sometimes not, who is in the best position to judge when an "exception" is appropriate?

It's my belief, and the belief of many others, that there is no better than judge that the woman who carries the fetus within her. I say that because, no other human in a position to decide experiences all the possible conequences with the same profound intimacy.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/23/2004

With unique responsibility comes unique rights. I would happily accord a pregnant male the same rights that I would accord a pregnant woman.