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The Story: In two decisions last week on the so-called "shadow docket," the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court summarily decided two appeals pending from...
Lydia Ortiz WASHINGTON — For all his talk about judges not being political actors beholden to a president, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and his conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court may hand President Trump one of the biggest political victories of his administration: the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. It also happens to be a coup with profound implications for American democracy. At issue in Department of Commerce v. New York, which the justices considered on Tuesday in an 80-minute hearing, is not the legality of inquiring on the census form about people’s citizenship status. As Justice Neil Gorsuch put it, “It’s not like anybody in the room is suggesting the question is improper to ask in some way, shape or form.” Instead, the case is about administrative process. But those skeptical conservative justices were nowhere to be found on Tuesday. An analysis by census officials found that nearly 6 percent of households with at least one noncitizen, or roughly 6.5 million people, would go uncounted with a citizenship question on the 2020 census. During Tuesday’s arguments, the conservative majority showed little interest in the fact that Mr. Ross ignored the expertise of the United States Census Bureau, which had warned that the citizenship question would lead to significant undercounts because immigrants may be wary of participating. The conservative justices also seemed unbothered that Mr. Ross lobbied hard to get other federal agencies to provide a pretext for his plans — an effort “to obtain cover for a decision” that was already made, as one federal judge phrased it. Or as Justice Elena Kagan said on Tuesday, Mr. Ross was “shopping for a need” for the citizenship data. Federal law, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “grants the president broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States.” So it may come to pass that, no matter how ugly the underlying evidence or how antithetical this change is to an “actual enumeration” of everyone in the United States, the justices will once again let the administration have its way.
Directionally, the overall policy posture is center-right. The president retains the firm support of most Republican voters. Under the January 1973 Paris peace accords, North Vietnam recognized the continued existence of a non-Communist government in Saigon, while the United States confirmed its own ground force departure. Nixon’s critics have long argued that he had no interest in or expectation of supporting South Vietnam’s continued independence with American ground troops gone. Reports indicate that key outlines of a possible settlement include the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a promise from the Taliban never to attack the United States. In the year following his re-election, revelations of Richard Nixon’s criminal misconduct over the Watergate affair consumed his presidency. In the end it was stalwart conservatives like Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who told the president directly that his impeachment and removal were certain. Congressional Democrats will therefore continue aggressive investigations on a number of matters, including Trump’s tax returns, his inauguration committee, the Trump organization, obstruction of justice, and possible campaign finance violations. Second, U.S. party politics are considerably more polarized than they were in Nixon’s day, and this obviously affects the process in more than one direction. The nature of Donald Trump’s character and personality is furthermore that he will always fight back against such allegations with the ferocity of a wild honey badger.
Vox's Ezra Klein would do better to examine his own party’s many phobias. When Klein talks about “change,” he is thinking of demography. In fact, Klein and his party are all about fear. It fears money spent by corporations in political campaigns and that millions of Americans are about to lose their health insurance. It fears nuclear energy and school shootings and Chick-fil-A and anti-vaxxers. Vox’s motto might as well be, “All the stuff that young adults fear.” Even the smugprogs whom Klein singles out as examples of fearless politicians are avatars of fear. He said of climate change, “Our economy is on the line. Lives are on the line. So let’s call this what it is, climate security, a life-and-death issue for our generation.” He advised fear of just about everyone: “Your neighbor can make you unfree. I didn’t use the word “hysteria.” I merely said that progressives are afraid of a lot of stuff.
In seven angry pages, Justice Stephen G. Breyer recounted how the conservative majority on the court had refused his request to delay the execution of an Alabama inmate for a few hours so he and the other justices could discuss the matter in person at their usual Friday morning conference. Instead, by a 5-to-4 vote in the middle of the night, the court allowed the execution to proceed, with the conservative justices in the majority and the liberals in dissent. The dispute among the justices on Friday lasted long enough that Alabama officials postponed the execution of the inmate, Christopher L. Price, which had been scheduled for Thursday night. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.” The majority, in a brief unsigned opinion, said Mr. Price had waited too long to raise his claim that Alabama’s method of execution, a lethal injection of three chemicals, could subject him to excruciating pain. Mr. Price asked to be executed using nitrogen gas, a method allowed by Alabama law. Around 9 p.m. on Thursday, Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to allow the execution to go forward. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority was “profoundly wrong.” In March, the court halted the execution of a Buddhist inmate in Texas in similar circumstances, over two noted dissents, with the majority apparently satisfied that the request had been timely. In his dissent on Friday, Justice Breyer reviewed the proceedings in Mr. Price’s case and said undue haste had undermined justice. “I recognized that my request would delay resolution of the application and that the state would have to obtain a new execution warrant, thus delaying the execution by 30 days. “But in my judgment, that delay was warranted, at least on the facts as we have them now,” Justice Breyer wrote.
What does the enthusiasm from top Democrats about the strike, and others like it, say about the party’s relationship to unions right now? But labor’s in a position now to make them prove exactly how serious they are about that support, and I think that’s why we’re seeing what looks like a surge of enthusiasm from this year’s crop of candidates. Ed: Well, there’s a supply as well as a demand side to this phenomenon: all these candidates pursuing a fixed quantity of labor resources and endorsements. But is that renewed attention simply a result of the party’s leftward drift, or is it because labor has actually gotten more powerful too? Members have told me that their fellow workers didn’t need a lot of convincing to stay in their unions after Janus. Unions promise workers a way to better their conditions. Ben: You wrote that unions may take a while, perhaps a long while, to endorse a Democratic candidate. I’d say the other front-runners to be the labor candidate are Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, who’s really working hard to position herself as a pro-teacher candidate. Ed: That’s especially interesting insofar as AFT is a union whose membership skews pretty heavily female. Sarah: There might be an interesting gender divide within the labor movement this year.
Discussion panels on Effective Organizing and Leadership, moderated “Rad Women” series author Kate Schatz, and on Young Women Paving the Way in Male-Dominated Fields, moderated by Alameda school board President Mia Bonta. 6:30 p.m., Encinal Junior and Senior High School Student Center, 210 Central Ave., Alameda. “Charm City”: Screening of a documentary about violence in Baltimore and how a group of police, citizens, community leaders and government officials tried to combat it. 7 p.m., Evans Hall, UC Berkeley. Immigration issues: A discussion of immigration issues threatening vulnerable communities. 6:30 p.m., Diablo Valley College cafeteria, 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill. Josh Harder/TJ Cox: Newly elected Central Valley Democratic House members hold a thank-you event with Bay Area campaign volunteers. Screenings include two by Elizabeth Lo, “Mothers Day” and “Hotel 22,” and the Oscar-nominated “4.1 Miles.” Free. $30 for non-Commonwealth Club members, $10 for students. $25 for non-Commonwealth Club members, $10 for students.
“But when nine out of 10 districts in the Congress are totally uncompetitive because they’ve been drawn in such a way that the politicians actually choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians, in a very naked, transparent, and inarguable way, that election is rigged,” Buttigieg told a crowd of mostly Northeastern University students on their Boston campus Wednesday, referring to the effects of partisan gerrymandering. The South Bend, Indiana mayor — who is expected to officially launch a Democratic presidential campaign on April 14 — said a similar rational applies to the way the country elects its presidents. Buttigieg is hardly the only 2020 contender in the Democratic primary field who supports nonpartisan redistricting and getting rid of the Electoral College. And unlike his competitors, the 37-year-old mayor says those reforms need to include a restructuring of the Supreme Court. “The number of Supreme Court justices has already changed,” he said, referring to the Republican-controlled Senate’s unprecedented blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. “They changed it to eight,” Buttigieg said. “And then they changed it back after they won.” Buttigieg says arguments that Democrats are introducing the idea of so-called “court packing” often ignores “the extent to which the Senate has already shattered some of these norms.” Critics of the Supreme Court say the institution has recently become overly politicized — and, as a result, more conservative during the Trump administration and likely to strike down any big legislative agenda items passed by Democrats. Both of Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments were recommended to him and bred by conservative political groups. “One that I find very appealing — devil’s in the details, but it’s appealing in principle — is you have 15 justices, but only 10 of them are appointed through a traditional political process [i.e. the president and the Senate], Democrats and Republicans,” he said. For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, recently labeled the sweeping government reform bill passed by House Democrats, which would end partisan redistricting in federal elections, as a Democratic “power grab.” “Unfortunately, if your side stands to lose from a more representative system, then it may look to you like the other side is gaining power,” Buttigieg told reporters Wednesday before his appearance at Northeastern.
Worse yet, the top 0.1 percent has cornered about 20 percent of it, up from 7 percent in the mid-1970s. In fact, applicants from families in the top 1 percent are now 77 times more likely than in the bottom 20 percent to land in an elite college, and 38 of those schools admit more kids from families in that top percentage than from the bottom 60 percent. Individuals, companies, and organizations can, for instance, give money to political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs. PACs face no monetary limits on their independent efforts to shape elections, though they can’t accept corporate or union money or take more than $5,000 from individuals. They raised $1.6 billion and spent nearly $809 million. Nearly 78 percent of the money they received came from 100 donors. They, in turn, belonged to the wealthiest 1 percent, who provided 95 percent of what those Super PACs took in. It devoted $15 million to lobbying in 2018—and that’s not counting its campaign contributions, using various channels. Compared to other democracies, the United States appears to be in a league of its own when it comes to money’s prominence in politics. (Super PACs spent another $350 million to help Romney and $100 million to back Obama.)
And given the court's conservative lean, they could do so again in this most recent case, which involves House district maps drawn by state legislatures in Maryland and North Carolina. But ending gerrymandering might not be that easy, in part because both parties occasionally benefit from the process. What is gerrymandering? How gerrymandering works In most states, the legislature draws up new congressional maps following the conclusion of the U.S. census, which takes place every ten years. The state's governor then has to approve the new map by signing it into law. A number of states, most recently Utah, have tried to sidestep partisan redistricting by creating independent commissions tasked with drawing maps that better reflect the will of voters. States like Utah are also trying this approach, creating independent commissions that would limit legislatures' involvement in redistricting. Democrats have scored major victories at the state level in recent elections, and according to The Washington Post, they would now have the ability to draw the boundaries of 76 House seats nationwide should redistricting happen tomorrow. Another 113 seats would be drawn by independent commissions, while 60 would be redrawn in states where Republicans and Democrats share control of the state government. Why 2020 matters for gerrymandering Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the 2020 elections remain Democrats' best hope of undoing Republican gerrymanders and instituting new maps.