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Saturday, November 5, 2022

Why we must keep Congress Blue

I still think John Roberts is the worst Chief Justice since Roger Taney

Robert Reich

On Monday, the Supreme Court gathered to consider whether affirmative action in college admissions nourishes a multicultural nation or impermissibly divides Americans by race.

I do not expect this Court to uphold affirmative action, notwithstanding the clear precedent for doing so.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. -- the conservative least likely to champion dramatic change in the court’s precedents -- has for his entire legal career opposed what he has called the “sordid business” of dividing Americans by race, including affirmative action

As Special Assistant to the Attorney General in the Reagan Justice Department, Roberts argued that affirmative action was bound to fail because it required the "recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."

Roberts also complained to the Attorney General that the Department of Labor and its Office of Federal Contract Compliance were promoting "offensive preferences" based on race and gender, and questioned the executive order on which the Office of Contract Compliance was based.

He criticized a Supreme Court decision barring states from eliminating public education for children of undocumented immigrants.

And he supported a narrow "program specific" interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Later, while in the White House, Roberts sought to slow progress on combating discrimination in housing, arguing that the administration should "go slowly" on proposed fair housing legislation, claiming that such legislation represented "government intrusion."

Compared to the Trump justices, Roberts seems almost judicious. But on the issue of affirmative action and on several other key issues he’s as bad if not worse than his rightwing siblings on the Court.

Since he became Chief on September 29, 2005, the Roberts Court has done more to reduce the voting rights of poor people and Black people while enlarging the voting rights of rich people and corporations than has any court since Roger Taney was Chief Justice in the early 19th century.

In 2010, Roberts was the moving force behind “Citizens United v. FEC,” (in which he concurred), finding that corporations are people, entitled to the same First Amendment rights — and thereby opening the floodgates to big money corrupting American politics.

In 2013, Roberts wrote for the court’s conservative majority in “Shelby County v. Holder,” gutting the Voting Rights Act’s requirement of prior federal approval for voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. 

Roberts ignored the detailed record to make his own finding that racial discrimination was no longer a problem in the United States — thereby opening the floodgates to voter-suppression laws across the South and other states with Republican-majority legislatures.

In addition to affirmative action, this term the Roberts court will put at risk the Voting Rights Act’s bar on the “denial or abridgement” of the right to vote on account of race in the upcoming case of “Merrill v. Milligan,” where Alabama asserts that race can’t be used as a factor to design fairer voting districts.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is supposed to guard it as an institution — maintaining public confidence and trust in it. But Americans' confidence in the Court is now at a new low in Gallup's nearly 50-year trend. Only 25 percent of U.S. adults say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in it — five percentage points lower than the previous low recorded in 2014.

Yet another reason why it is so important that Democrats keep control over the Senate.

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.