Politics

The Senate v. The Constitution

Preparing for the next Supreme Court confirmation battle

|

With all the praise being heaped on departing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a person might have forgotten momentarily that the man spent a good chunk of the past two decades working to soften up the Constitution.

Rest assured, his replacement will take to the task capably—empathy above justice, and all that—but what I really look forward to is the confirmation battle because Democrats, according to Politico, plan to turn Senate hearings into a referendum on "corporations vs. the common man."

According to the story, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy's political strategy will be offered up in a simple question: "Do you share our concern about the fact that the court always seems to side with the big corporate interests against the average American?"

One would think that the victor (and to contend that the court "always" sides with big corporate interests is preposterous) would be less significant than the constitutional merits of the decisions.

Then again, ginning up anger about corporations is always a useful distraction, because what Leahy is really asking is this: Do you share our concern that the Constitution, too often interpreted as written, is holding back an empathetic and enlightened progressive agenda?

You remember the outrage over Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? In that case, some "average Americans" decided to produce a political film about Hillary Clinton. It was censored by the FEC because, as everyone knows, the First Amendment should not apply to unsavory characters who've gotten themselves mixed up with corporate interests.

Lest anyone forget, Stevens—in a spirited dissent—sided with government, who argued that even books (no more legitimate a vessel for political speech than any other, actually) could be banned by government through campaign finance laws if necessary.

So Leahy, who believes Stevens is a model jurist, likely will ask many piercing questions (How evil is corporate America, Nixon evil or merely Nazi evil?) in defense of average Americans.

But I wonder whether the average American believes, like Justice Stevens, that an unelected federal agency, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, should bypass Congress and, by fiat, regulate carbon dioxide, a chemical compound that permeates everything, without any consideration for cost or imposition or the electorate?

Do most average Americans, like Justice Stevens—who dissented on the landmark Second Amendment case of District of Columbia v. Heller—believe that once a judge deems something dangerous enough, that judge should empower government to ban it, even though that something happens to be explicitly protected by a constitutional amendment?

Do they believe, like Justice Stevens, that government should continue to use racial quotas and preferences rather than allow citizens the freedom to succeed or fail on their own merits—or even their own luck—rather than on the color of their skin?

Do they believe, like Justice Stevens, that local government should be permitted to throw American citizens off their own property and out of their homes? Do they concur that government should then be able to hand that property over to other private citizens simply because they can pay more taxes? Because, in Kelo v. City of New London, Stevens, writing for the majority, radically expanded the idea of property as "public use."

It's no mystery why Leahy would want to turn the tables on conservatives and make the confirmation hearing about corporations rather than the Constitution or the reckless manner in which justices like Stevens treat it. I would do the same if my agenda's success were tied intricately to the pliability of the document.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 THE DENVER POST
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

NEXT: Ron Paul vs. Barack Obama: Rasmussen Says It's a Dead Heat

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Democrats always want to protect the common man from corporations. How about protecting the common man from government?

    1. Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections, the mechanisms by which government power is checked. In your small government world, corporations will rule, and that’s that. Pick your poison. I prefer the one the people can vote out of power at regular intervals.

      1. Right on, Tony!

      2. Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections

        Sure they do, Tony Troll. In fact, the only time when their built-in checks and balances (sales and profits) are thwarted is when government steps in and corrupts the natural process.

        1. +28

      3. “Governments don’t have the checks & balances of competition and volutary exchange, the mechanisms by which corporate power is checked. In your big government world, politicans and bureaucrats will rule, and that’s that. Pick your poison. I prefer the one where people can vote with their wallet on a constant and continual basis and the one that has no leagl power to force action.”

      4. Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections,

        Actually, they do. They have elected boards of directors, which are the check-and-balance on management.

        Idiots.

        1. RC,

          It is true that Corporations have boards of directors. In reality, most BoDs act as shills for management, though. Typical BoDs are made up of CEOs of other corporations with the whole arrangement pretty incestuous.

          Not that I agree with Tony on this issue. Just saying.

          1. In reality, most BoDs act as shills for management, though.

            Yeah, you’ll never catch a legislature shilling for an executive.

            1. You will see a poor performing legislator or president losing their job, while CEOs get fat bonuses even while running their businesses into the ground, for the reason wayne mentioned above.

              1. Then by your logic, W would have served only one term, right? The only reason these CEOs can run their businesses into the ground while collecting fat bonuses is that the government you seem to love so much continues to bail them out. Are you seriously this dense? This only further convinces me that progressives only look at problems and never what causes them.

      5. Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections, the mechanisms by which government power is checked.

        Corporations have the most effective check and balance of all — people can choose not to buy what they are selling.

        And they often have these things called stocks, owned by stockholders, than can be voted to get rid of the people running the corporation.

        Try sending a letter to the IRS in lieu of a tax return stating that you have decided to no longer do business with them, and so you aren’t filing a tax return or paying any more taxes.

        1. The checks and balances of the marketplace don’t work very well when corporations game the system by controlling government–which in your preferred world is conveniently small enough to be controlled.

          1. In our world, it would be so small it wouldn’t be worth controlling. Corporations aren’t out lobbying the dog city dog catcher, Chony.

            1. So corporations would be able to rule us without even having to bother buying Congressmen. I can’t wait to live in libertopia!

              1. How exactly would they rule us if they couldn’t force us to do anything? Rule defined: to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern: to rule the empire with severity.
                14.
                to decide or declare judicially or authoritatively; decree: The judge ruled that he should be exiled.
                If they don’t have the power to send people with guns to our homes to throw us in jail if we disobey them, how exactly do they rule us?

      6. Yes, we need politicians to have more control over large corporations, to make them work for social justice and make sure they don’t collapse at great public expense. You know, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac! Oh, wait….

        So Tony, now that Fannie and Freddie have collapsed at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, I trust you’ll be voting against the Democrats, who created and ran them in the ground?

        1. Short and sweet article. One of David’s best, to my mind.

      7. I do that every time I buy Corporation A’s product instead of Corporation B’s. Why do you think PanAm, Circuit City, American Motors, etc. went out of business, bright boy?

      8. I prefer the one the people can vote out of power at regular intervals.

        It may look like “the people” are doing that. But it’s more like slaves “picking” their masters. The selection is limited, they’re still slaves when it’s over, and nothing of substance changes.

        1. Generally speaking, aren’t options always limited? Especially at the ballot box, where we usually have just 2?

          I have far, far more options than that when, say, buying a car. That is despite the fact that the auto industry has high barriers to entry. That is, it’s hard to launch a mom-and-pop auto manufacturer.

          Also, I don’t get the scare quotes. Did I not really “choose” my Toyota? What would constitute a true choice in your book? In what way am I a slave — metaphorically speaking, of course — to Toyota and/or Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, etc.?

          1. Do you truly see no difference between a car company and the government? Does the word “force” ring any bells?

        2. But don’t you swell with might when you get to cast one vote out of maybe 200,000 to elect 1/435th of 1/2 of 1/3 of the federal government? Then have your candidate ignore his campaign promises? Now there’s some power, baby.

      9. “Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections, the mechanisms by which government power is checked.”

        Corporations have better checks & balances than government – as a consumer you can choose to purchase their products & services or not, and as a stock holder, you can sell or retain their stock. I wish it was so easy to voice my displeasure with our government.

        “I prefer the one the people can vote out of power at regular intervals.”

        Why would you think this would change?

      10. I prefer the one that people can vote out of power in their personal lives instantaneously.

      11. Tony|4.14.10 @ 12:12PM|#
        “Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections, the mechanisms by which government power is checked.”

        Truly one of Chony’s (and by extention S. H.’s) most ignorant comments ever! A personal BEST, Chony!

        Corporations have no “power” outside of the power granted by your fave organization, the government!
        Other than that, they can attempt to convince; only the government has the power to coerce.
        Now, even given the abysmal level of your ignorance, I’ll be happy to argue the point further. But first, I want to hear specifics of ‘corporate power’ absent the government.

      12. Tony the Troll –Corporations don’t have checks & balances and regular elections, the mechanisms by which government power is checked.

        They also don’t have hundreds of thousands armed agents to steal your property or compel your behavior, governments do

        They also aren’t above the law,

  2. Well, they protect the common man as long as it’s not a corporation looking to snatch the common man’s land with eminent domain. Then the common man can so pound sand.

    The USSC has turned into nothing more than a super-legislature.

  3. From here:

    What is crucial now is for all Americans of good will to come together to work out a common understanding of the Constitution by which everyone’s legislation will be judged. No more of those ugly and embarrassing brawls between liberals and conservatives to get “their man” onto the Court. There cannot be anything more horrific than allowing the Constitution — the palladium of our national unity — to become anyone’s weapon in the culture wars.

  4. With all the praise being heaped on departing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a person might have forgotten momentarily that the man spent a good chunk of the past two decades working to soften up the Constitution.

    This is nonsense, read:

    Guardian of the Constitution, Stevens to Leave Supreme Court This Summer

    …old and unapologetic protector of the Constitution will step down, making way for Obama to appoint his second Supreme Court justice…

    1. Maybe you should read all his decisions many that went against the common man and the constitution.

    2. This is laughable. Also part of that article from “The Nation” refers to “the conservative-leaning high court” That a author who considers the current SCOTUS ‘conservative-leaning’ is concurrently praising Stevens as a protector of the constitution should say all that’s necessary about the biases and worldview of that author.

  5. Kelo, Kelo, Kelo.

    Tell me againn how the leberal wing of the court, which Stevens led if we’re to give credece to the op-eds, stands up for the average guy against corporate and govermental oppression.

    Really, I could use a laugh.

    1. I guess they would say some government-corporate collusions are less oppressive than others.

    2. But Pfizer was one of the good corporations, and would have paid more taxes on Susette Kelo’s land than she did, so they are Teh Awesome.

    3. Look, siding with corporations is ugly, but not to side with them in Kelo would suggest that government (federal, state, local, whatever) is limited in its ability to dictate how property must be used, to promote the good and welfare. How will we ever get to a centrally planned utopia with archaic thinking like that?

  6. Tony is the best commenter on the whole site. He’s one of the few sane voices, so he has to be shouted down.

    1. I guess that makes you second-best, huh?

      1. Scotch is not a very good troll. He should be 12th best to Tony.

    2. Do you even think about what you’re typing? Tony’s comments have not been removed–I just read them. What’s this “shouted down” bullshit? Just because everybody didn’t fall to their knees and start kissing his ass?

    3. I rarely laugh out loud at comments, but I did at this. This gives away the game.

      Whoever you are, Scotch, you had us going for a long time. No way you are a legit (misguided) troll.

      BRAVO!

      1. Scotch just has to be Tony in drag…

    4. I’d like to see all the entries in the dictionary that ‘progressives use.

      So far I’ve figured out two:

      The definition of “market failure” is apparently “any outcome I don’t like”.

      And now it seems “shouted down” means “disagrees with me”.

      1. How about the Reason dictionary?

        Libertarian: Republican when Republicans are out of power.

        Don’t worry ladies, the pendulum will swing back and you can put your Ronald Reagan pictures back up.

        1. Let’s hope so. At the rate Obama’s going, I’m trying to find someone with W pictures….

          1. I wouldn’t go that far, but your point is well taken.

    5. Hmmm. Yep one brain-dead claims another brain-dead is pretty neat!
      Thanks, scotch. Your Mom has your snack ready.

  7. Sock puppet much?

    1. Not even subtle, either. Sigh… the trolls and sock puppets were so much better when Virginia Postrel was here.

      1. I’m not a sock puppet. I’m a feltcher.

        1. Or a run of the mill ignoramus. I’d vote for the latter.

  8. Possibly some will listen to Ralph Nader’s description of Big Business’s (and Big Labor’s) love of Big Government:

    The arms-length relationship which must characterize any democratic government in its dealings with special interest groups has been replaced, and not just by ad hoc wheeling and dealing, which has been observed for generations. What is new is the institutionalized fusion of corporate desires with public bureaucracy — where the national security is synonymous with the state of Lockheed and Litton, where career roles are interchangeable along the industry-to-government-to-industry shuttle, where corporate risks and losses become taxpayer obligations. For the most part, the large unions do not object to this situation, having become modest co-partners, seeking derivative benefits from the governmental patrons of industry.

    1. “…For the most part, the large unions do not object to this situation, having become modest co-partners,…”

      Outside of this howler, there’s truth in there. The problem is that Nader presumes the solution to be more government.

  9. I reject the premises that (1) the SCOTUS “always” rules in favor of corporations vs. “the little guy” and (2) that such a dichotomy must exist or in fact does exist.

  10. a referendum on “corporations vs. the common man.”

    Really?

    Senate Democrats: Corporatism for me, but not for thee.

    Alas, if the Senate Republicans weren’t also corporatist pricks, they might be able to actually make that case.

    I can’t stand it! All those lying, demagoguing, fascist fuckers in CONgress just make me want to set myself on fire!

  11. Next time just put the link to whatever article you agree with.

  12. Kelo, as in this article, is often misunderstood.

    It actually supported federalism. It said that individual states must decide how public use is defined. The decision may empower individual Nanny States, but it surely respected the 10th amendment. It’s not Stevens’ fault Connecticut defined Public Use the way they did.

    Otherwise, interesting article.

    1. It actually supported federalism. It said that individual states must decide how public use is defined.

      I dunno, Omahan. I think there was ample room for the court to rule on the side of private property in Kelo, on the grounds that the seizure violated the Constitution.

      Punting to the states was a copout, a way of covering their own dismal failure to apply the plain terms of the Constitution.

      1. So you want justices to overstep 10th Amendment restrictions when it benefits your particular cause? The outcome of Kelo was awful. However, it wasn’t the Court’s place to fix the problem.

        Stop misrepresenting the case to further your own ideas.

        1. Omahan|4.14.10 @ 5:32PM|#
          “So you want justices to overstep 10th Amendment restrictions when it benefits your particular cause?”

          Uh, are you supporting slavery?

          1. You’re not equating personal freedom to eminent domain issues, right?

        2. “So you want justices to overstep 10th Amendment restrictions when it benefits your particular cause?”

          Are you suggesting the fifth amendment is not incorporated, or just that states should get to decide what the word “public” means?

          1. That’s what the case said. It’s up to the states to define “public use”.

  13. David Harsanyi is why Reason and the “libertarians” are a joke.

    Go read Harsanyi in the Denver Post during the Bush admin. His views on limited government and freedoms where entirely different. He’s a hack and a complete idiot.

    Why in the name of God do you Libertarians pick these fools up?

  14. Actually, you’ll find dead links, as Harsanyi erased most his stuff from that time.

    All you have to do to reinvent yourself as a libertarian is flush all the big government stuff you support under Republicans down the memory hole. LOL.

    You suck Reason. You’re part of the problem. Just merge with RedState and get it over with.

    1. +1

    2. jmaze
      Yeah, Harsanyi jumped to Reason and the Libertarians because they were good for his career. All 2% of the electorate and thus readers of his works.

      So could Tony be jmaze, Scotch and multiple other trolls? Where does he get the time?

      1. Perhaps he works for the government.

  15. Without Runes of Magic hacks and low-levels is a pretty-pretty low options than grow-up chars. The next I will introduce the level of importance in Dofus, and I hope it can help you more or less.Runes of Magic guild.

  16. David you’re so fucking boring that my tits are falling off. I couldn’t finish this gay article of yours without the assistance of some anhydrous ammonia meth.

    Btw, saw you on Stossel. Scared the shit out of me with that kiddy fiddler smile you have there. I know if there are any missing children or dogs in your neighborhood, we all know where to look.

  17. The history of conflict between the NRA and Gura dates back to Heller, when the gun rights organization, fearing a loss (or, in some interpretations, fearing a victory where it could not claim credit), attempted to stymie or take over the case for years before finally jumping on board as allies in the closing stretch. Gura is openly peeved that his strategy is being questioned and his time encroached on against his will.

  18. which limited the actions of Congress and by extension had to be incorporated, the Second Amendment stated that RKBA was not to be infringed, and lacked detail as to by whom, and therefore applied to all government. By its very language it was already applicable to the states!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.