Democracy has worked in America for over two-hundred years because the federal judiciary has the ability to check legislation for constitutionality and serves as a protection against Congressional and presidential overreach. Perhaps the federal courts do not always side with popular opinion, or the will of the people, but they do provide a measure of continuity based on the Constitution. There is reason to be concerned that democracy is in jeopardy if Republicans seeking the nomination for the presidency ever reach the White House because three of the contenders have made statements that threaten the federal judiciary and by extension, the Constitution and nature of America’s government.
Conservatives have assailed “Liberal activist judges” since Richard Nixon was president, but three of the Republican candidates have gone beyond rhetoric and suggested radical policies that portend disaster for democracy. Statements from Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum should engender outrage and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for their dictatorial tendencies and extreme anti-Constitutional nature. The three candidates do a disservice to Americans who may be as ignorant of the Constitution as the Republican, would-be dictators. It is doubtful that any president or serious candidate for president has ever defied a federal judge’s ruling, but Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum are promising a frightening scenario that rejects the notion of judicial independence.
It is not entirely clear if Republicans have a firm grasp on the Constitution or American history, but their mean-spirited ignorance of the country’s main document is shocking, if not pure evil. There are reasons federal judges receive lifetime appointments, and none is so crucial as a judge serving for life is not inclined to make critical decisions based on public opinion that may win, or lose an election or assignment to a federal court. Instead of pleasing voters and politicians, federal judges must base decisions on their understanding of the Constitution whether their opinions are popular or not.
In November, Rick Perry said if he was elected as president, federal judges would not receive lifetime appointments to the bench. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution clearly states that Supreme Court Justices and lower federal court’s judges are appointed to have lifetime tenure unless they are impeached and removed from office. Either Perry is ignorant of the Constitution or believes that as president he will have dictatorial powers to unilaterally change the Constitution based on his flawed understanding of presidential powers that are clearly defined in the Constitution. Regardless of Perry’s dysfunction, his statements contribute to the miseducation of an already ignorant Republican voting base that may believe, like Perry, that a president can issue edicts that are contrary to the rule of law.
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