Rick Santorum has been on the LGBTQ radar this week after being interviewed by Rachel Maddow. Most of the gay press I’ve read are kind of joking about it, and reveling in the fact (as they see it) Maddow schooled him on basic Civics. Indeed, she worked really hard to get him to grasp the idea that the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of laws, and in that regard, has the final word. But he didn’t really get that. He did say some very important things that any progressive or liberal needs to think hard about, and he illustrated once again, why voting in every election is crucial for a healthy democracy.

Before I get into my purpose with this blog, I want to point out that Maddow sees Santorum as the best communicator out of all the potential Republican candidates. That’s an important point. It means what he says and how he says it can tell us a lot. It doesn’t mean, he is right (as in correct) but that he articulates a conservative message clearly, so we should be paying attention.

There are two parts of the video clip I want to highlight side by side, but I encourage you to watch the entire interview. The quotes here are from the transcript: (Bolded emphasis is mine)

MADDOW: They {the Supreme Court] decide what’s constitutional. That’s how our government works.
SANTORUM: No, no, that`s not necessarily true. The Congress has the right. When I took my oath of office as a United States senator, what did I say? I would uphold the Constitution.
And my feeling is, and I think it’s clearly from our founding
documents, that the Congress has a right to say what`s constitutional. The president has a right to say what`s constitutional. And that’s part of the dynamic called checks and balances.

Maddow calls this out as “fundamentally wrong on Civics,” and she is correct. The Supreme Court gets the last word on if a law is constitutional. Both the Congress and the President, make policy and laws, but this isn’t done to say what is or isn’t constitutional. And in the end, the Constitution is the real final say, and the court’s role is to determine how well a law or policy aligns with the Constitution.

Of course, I think it would be great if every bill had to go through a “constitutional check” before it made it onto the congressional floor, but that isn’t ever going to happen.

Notice how he says, “Congress has a right to say what is constitutional.” That’s important! In his view, just because they say it is constitutional, it must be. History shows us how wrong that is, but it is the position he is putting forth.

Here is the first scary part:

SANTORUM: Well, of course. The Congress could pass anything it
wants to pass. Just because the Supreme Court said, well, we don`t think this is right does’t limit the Congress’ — doesn’t limit the Congress` ability to pass any law. The Congresses are right to pass whatever they want. The Supreme Court can strike it down again.
MADDOW: Yes.
SANTORUM: But the Congress has a right to pass it and a right to say to the court, you`re wrong. I mean, when we are —

Congress has the right to pass anything they want. He doesn’t say, “pass any law that is aligned with the Constitution.” He says, “any law they want.” He places the role of Congress and the President as above the Constitution, and that is a cornerstone of Tea Party and conservative Republican ideology.

For the sake of fairness and clarity, I’m not snipping out part of the interview. This next part is interesting, but the second scary part comes below.

MADDOW: Would you want them to pass a moot bill that would just —
SANTORUM: It wouldn’t be moot. You never know what the Supreme Court is going to do. Maybe if you — maybe between the time, and this is, I think could be the case here. Maybe between the time they decided that decision and Congress acted, things could have happened and they could have misread the tea leaves that are going on in America right now, because I think what was going on with this court is what Justice Kennedy was saying.
You know, we sort of see this definition of liberty is whatever we want it to be. And this is sort of where the culture is going right now and so this is what we’re going to do. He didn’t tie to it any constitutional basis. There’s no precedent that set — that gives him the ability to create this new right in the Constitution. And so, if it`s created on a whole cloth, it can be re- created in a different way out of whole cloth. And I think that’s the role of the Congress is to pressure the court to get it right.

No. The role of Congress is to pass laws to govern the country, and the Supreme Court determines their constitutionality when a case is brought before it.

Here’s the next and most scary part:

MADDOW: So, do you mean that you would want different justices in the Supreme Court? You would want this to go back to the same justices and you think you get a different —
SANTORUM: What I would like to see as president, a whole new group of justices. If you have a new group of justices, I think you might very well get a different decision.

How Justices are selected and placed on the Court, and the fact that this happens infrequently is crucial to the validity of the Court. It means that no one president or congress gets to “stack the court” from an ideological perspective, and that the court will, but nature contain justices with differing viewpoints, but whom all take their role as final adjudicators very seriously.

Santorum wants to be President, and when President, wants a whole new group of justices. How is that going to happen?

For conservatives, the goal is to keep passing laws and hope that they get one that passes a Supreme Court challenge, and to keep passing laws regardless if they are constitutional or not. It is a relentless attack on constitutionality. And that is why voting in every election matter so much. Failing to turn out to the voting booth means that those who do turn out shifts the weight of power towards the left or towards the right. Congressional seats are decided, some during presidential election years, and others during non-presidential election years. Every election is a chance to deepen one party’s level of power, and on the federal level, that means the ability to nominate judges and pass laws. Every election therefor, matters greatly.

 

 

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