Thursday, September 3, 2015

Huckabee Dead Wrong About Supreme Court & Constitution (and Life in General)

So I just watched Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee debate with Joe Scarborough this morning on Morning Joe about the "fact" that he (Huckabee) doesn't have to respect the recent Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is the law of the land in all 50 states.  Scarborough, to his credit, pointed out to the former governor that basic civics informs us that once the Supreme Court makes a determination about the United States Constitution, that ruling automatically becomes the law of the law in all 50 states (because all 50 states obviously follow the United States Constitution), and any state law that contradicts such a ruling is automatically superseded.  To be sure, that is how the law in this country works.  Huckabee, however, immediately quipped "no, that's not true."

But it IS true!  It's not even like there's a debate here.  This is a fact.  And as many in politics have correctly pointed out, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

It just struck me in that moment that we have people like Huckabee, who are running to be president of the United States of all things, who don't even know how the laws of the United States work.  Let that sink in for a moment.


Huckabee went on to make his case by telling Scarborough that he would have hated President Lincoln because Lincoln ignored the Supreme Court's 1857 precedent in Dredd Scott v. Sandford when he made the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves.  That's a bit of a stretch.  First, Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation through his war powers in the middle of the Civil War. During war, a president is constitutionally allowed certain powers that he or she would not otherwise have.  Moreover, let's look at what the Dredd Scott case actually said.  It made 3 rulings: (1) black people have no standing to file lawsuits in U.S. courts because they are not citizens; (2) the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional; and (3) the 5th Amendment's Due Process Clause does not allow the federal government to free slaves who run away into new US territories. 

The Emancipation Proclamation did not change any of that.

Contrary to urban legend, the Emancipation Proclamation did not grant citizenship to the freed slaves.  It simply said "congrats, now you're free to go live your life . . . preferably somewhere far away from us God-fearing White people."  So it would not have overruled Dredd Scott's first 2 points.  Arguably it conflicted with Dredd Scott's 3rd ruling about the federal government's ability to free the slaves in US territories, but even that is not technically true because the Emancipation Proclamation was specifically directed at the 10 southern states in rebellion to the Union at that time in 1863 and, as mentioned, was made pursuant to President Lincoln's war powers.  Because it was made pursuant to the president's war powers, it did not apply to the rest of the states which were not at war with the Union.  So Huckabee is wrong about President Lincoln "disregarding" the Supreme Court.

Huckabee and Scarborough continued the back and forth with Huckabee trying to rationalize his disregard for an entire branch of government (the Judiciary) and Scarborough pointing out time and again that even if we disagree with a Supreme Court decision that still doesn't mean we get to ignore its legal effect.  Finally Huckabee got to the essence of his argument, which is that he and other conservatives feel that the Supreme Court has way too much power whenever it disagrees with their ideology/religion (but so long as it agrees with his ideology or religion everything is cool, right?).  He then asked Scarborough rhetorically whether we the people are just supposed to throw our hands up and accept that "unelected judges" get the last word on the law.  Scarborough pointed out one simple solution to this seemingly insurmountable problem: we the people can elect representatives who will appoint conservative judges who agree with their ideology. 

Here's another solution that proves that the Supreme Court does not get the last word on the law: pass an Amendment to the Constitution.  An Amendment to the Constitution is THE last word on what the law is and supersedes any prior ruling of the Supreme Court which contradicts it (e.g., the 13th and 14th Amendments outlawed slavery and gave citizenship to black people, respectively.  These Amendments directly overruled and superseded Supreme Court cases like Dredd Scott).  Moreover, to Huckabee's point, an Amendment to the Constitution is passed by (1) Congress; and (2) the States.  That's about as "we the people" as it gets.    
 
I don't expect every person to know these things, but if you're going to run for President of the United States, I'm going to need you to at least know how the United States works. 
 
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