Gordon Campbell on the Supreme Court’s collusion with Trump

bdd2b59ffccb140f9021This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. In the week preceding the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, a US Supreme Court stacked with Trump appointees obligingly handed the former President a couple of huge victories. First, the Court helped Trump to run down the clock to the next election by postponing (until who-knows-when) the federal criminal trial that Trump is facing for trying to steal the 2020 election.

Next, the Supreme Court majority decision on Colorado’s attempt to exclude Trump from the presidential ballot has all but nullified the 14th amendment of the US Constitution. Passed less than a decade after the Civil War, this amendment forbade those who had previously engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, from ever again serving in senior positions of power.

Think for a moment about Trump’s role in fomenting the 6th January 2021 riot on Capitol Hill, a revolt that tried to prevent the ratifying of the 2020 election result. All nine of the Supremes ruled that the Colorado high court lacked the authority to treat the clause as grounds to remove Trump from the ballot in that state. Such matters of national significance had to be decided at federal level, the justices ruled, not at state level.

Nor that the majority of the Supremes were willing to take on that task. By a 5/4 majority, the Supreme Court held that only Congress – not the courts – can decide whether Trump or anyone else who might try to emulate him in future, had engaged in an insurrection sufficient to veto their campaign for the White House.

For good measure, the majority judgement bizarrely added another hurdle as a pre-condition: A 1948 law on “rebellion and insurrection” under which Trump would first have had to be convicted before Congress and the Supreme Court could order him removed from the ballot.

In sum, the Supreme Court has ensured that Trump’s name will be on the ballot in November. The weakness of the majority reasoning is evident. Leaving aside the insulating of Trump with the bizarre 1948 law pre-condition… Congress today is a divided, partisan political body, and acts like one. In 2024, to imagine that a Congressional majority would selflessly read (a) the Constitution and (b) the evidence against Trump and then (c) vote to remove the leading Republican candidate from the ballot seems utterly fanciful.

Thanks to this combo of partisan actions and wilful procrastination, the Supreme Court has almost certainly sunk any legal moves to prevent Donald Trump from running for President, despite all the risks that his candidacy poses for democracy, and for the rule of law.

Footnote: As Vox’s Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser says, the courts were never going to save America from Donald Trump. As Millhiser also points out with multiple examples, the Supreme Court has a very mixed record when it comes to standing up against demagogues and protecting citizen’s rights. First, the historical good news: Rather than vacillate and bow to the dubious claims of absolute presidential immunity being made by Donald Trump, a previous Supreme Court speedily ordered Richard Nixon to hand over the Watergate tapes to prosecutors. No immunity for Tricky Dick.

That’s about it, though. During WWII, the Supreme Court shamefully backed a presidential order to put US citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps, regardless of their 14th amendment rights to equal protection before the law. The Court, as Millhiser points out, also backed the 1918 jailing of Eugene Debs, a union leader and presidential candidate who had spoken out against conscription. No First Amendment free speech protections for Debs. And that’s before you get to the truly toxic decisions like the Dred Scott case which denied political rights to former slaves. Or more recently, the the Court’s scrapping of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which denied basic reproductive rights to all American women.

As Millhiser concludes, all that will save America – and the rest of the world – from another Trump presidency is if enough Americans vote for Joe Biden in November. Even if for some, that will have to be through gritted teeth.

Footnote Two: Just by the by… For the past 12 months, the mainstream media has run a narrative about Trump’s “mounting” legal woes, as if these were putting his prospects for a second term in jeopardy. Faint chance. The most serious of those have either been deferred (as mentioned) by the Supreme Court, or are imploding internally.

In reality, Trump’s legal “woes” rescued him in his time of need. In the wake of the 2022 US midterm elections, Trump’s political currency was at rock bottom. All over the country, his hand-picked candidates went down in defeat. From Pennsylvania to Arizona to Georgia, the defeats of Trump-endorsed candidates called into question his re-electability, and his hold on the Republican Party.

Last year’s court cases saved him. Throughout 2023, Trump’s legal “woes” gave him back his martyr’s mantle. It allowed him to present himself once again as the persecuted outsider held in contempt – just like the voters who flock to his banner – by the Wall Street puppets he derides as comprising the Democratic and Republican political Establishment. The legal cases re-validated Trump, and gave him a new and useful excuse to raid the wallets of his followers for donations.

And lastly, New Zealand…

If nothing else, the prospect of Trump’s re-election should be causing New Zealand to reconsider its plans to join the second pillar of AUKUS – a military pact likely to be rendered meaningless by Trump’s re-election. An isolationist President Trump would almost certainly forbid American defence shipyards to prioritise the building of US nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy.

At the very least, a President Trump would demand that New Zealand spend billions more on defence, before he would even consider putting valuable US defence-related digital IP and AI technology in the hands of our military. Just as Trump would leave Europe to the mercy of Vladimir Putin, the Pacific would be similarly left very much to its own devices.

So…. New Zealand should forget about riding on the coat-tails of AUKUS. Instead, we should be starting work on the tasks involved in following a truly independent foreign policy.

St Vincent, at the crossroads

Annie Clark used to be a prickly musical presence, but 2017’s Masseduction was her most readily accessible/most commercially successful pop album. “Broken Man” is the first single from St Vincent’s new All Born Screaming album, and it takes a typically truculent stance towards its audience in the lyrics, while hedging its musical bets :

Yesterday BTW, the link to Bob Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” was faulty. Here it is again: