The Supreme Court’s Conservative Rollback

Topics today:

  • This week’s Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and discrimination against gays;
  • My wondering why such discrimination against, say, mixed-race couples, and people of other religions, isn’t also OK (or maybe it is?)
  • Republican hysteria about immigrants, whom they would “bomb”;
  • The long-noted influence of billionaires on Republican policies;
  • A pointer to a collection of SF links that I posted today at Locus Online

The big news in recent days has been results of several cases heard by the Supreme Court this term, and of course they were decided to the preferences of the conservative majority. Predictably. It’s always, to me, an indictment the entire system of law, that everyone supposedly reads the same laws and yet comes to conclusions reflecting their preconceived political biases. Always.

NY Times, Darren Walker, 30 Jun 2023: Repeal of Affirmative Action Is Only the Beginning

Let’s be honest about the painful reality: America has functioned as a full democracy — guaranteeing the franchise to all — for less than one human lifetime. In practice, our democracy is younger than me.

I was born in 1959, into an America rived by apartheid. When I was a child, the adults in my life were technically eligible to vote. However, in the Louisiana and Texas towns where I grew up, they were prevented from doing so by the social and cultural norms of the American South.

During the first two decades of my life, the American people finally acknowledged this truth and, to borrow a phrase, acted affirmatively to address it. A new generation of American founders mobilized into a great, multiracial movement, challenged our nation to live up to its ideals and initiated a national construction project on the foundation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment (which was violated with impunity for an entire century after the nation ratified it).
In the Court’s majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts held that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it”—a new version of his old affront that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

This glib framing, and the school of thinking it represents, established a pernicious, false moral equivalence.

Once again, as I’ve noted, conservatives, it seems to me, perceive the world in simplistic, “glib,” black and white terms, ignoring context and nuance. And in doing so, inevitably reflect the priorities of what I’ve begun calling Savannah morality.


Vox, Ian Millhiser, 29 Jun 2023: The monstrous arrogance of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision, subtitled “What America will lose, now that affirmative action is effectively gone.”

This piece notes a significant contradiction in the current case.

But the practical effect of the Harvard decision is that it bans the very kind of affirmative action that the Court has endorsed in the past.

Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion for the Court’s six Republican appointees faults the two universities for having affirmative action programs that “lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race.” But there’s an obvious reason why they do not. The Court’s previous decisions permitted some limited forms of affirmative action, but they explicitly ban racial quotas and other mathematical formulas that could allow universities to determine whether they are achieving “focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race.”

Also, the decision ignored the advice of the military, and many big businesses, who claim the inability to maintain diversity will disadvantage America in the long run. Apparently those long-term considerations did not override the priorities of near-term Savannah morality thinking.


And what about this?

Vox, Fabiola Cineas, 30 Jun 2023: Affirmative action for white college applicants is still here, subtitled “Legacy admits, athletic recruits, and the children of donors, faculty members, and VIPs still have a leg up under the Supreme Court’s new ruling.”


Put another way,

AlterNet, 30 Jun 2023: The Supreme Court only outlawed the kind of bias that its rightwing supermajority dislikes


Then there was the case about the website designer who doesn’t want to deal with same-sex couples, who are against her “beliefs.”

NY Times, Lily Moore-Eissenberg guest essay, 30 Jun 2023: The Supreme Court’s Blow to Anti-Discrimination Law Hurts Families Like Mine

The Court’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis carves out a new exception to civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in the public marketplace. A Christian website designer challenged the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, arguing that the law would violate the First Amendment by requiring her company to offer the same services — in this case, custom wedding websites — to people of all sexual orientations.

My question about cases like this is, wouldn’t it also be OK, then, to exempt businesses from serving mixed-race couples, or people who follow different religions of any sort? Anyone can claim “sincerely held religious beliefs.” But how is it the only cases that come along like this concern the gays?


Stepping back a bit into larger matters of concern to Savannah morality.

Washington Post, Greg Sargent, 30 Jun 2023: Opinion | DeSantis’s ugly descent into ‘invasion’ hysteria can’t go unanswered

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis released a plan for the southern border this week that uses the word “invasion” at least five times. He later took this rhetoric to hallucinogenic extremes, declaring on Fox News that anyone with drugs who “is cutting through a border wall” should end up “stone-cold dead.”


LA Times, Jean Guerrero, 30 Jun 2023: Column: For Republicans, ‘Bomb the Mexicans’ is the new ‘Build the Wall’

When then-President Trump proposed shooting migrants in the legs and firing missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs, he did so in private.

Republican politicians are now expressing their bloodlust in public. As “Build the Wall” loses its edge, “Bomb the Mexicans” is becoming mainstream in the GOP.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — Trump’s top challenger for the Republican presidential nomination — promised to deploy the U.S. military against transnational cartels in Mexico and advocated for executing people crossing the border who are carrying drugs. “You absolutely can use deadly force,” he said.

These are such small, tiny, pitiful, frightened people. (This is too easy, but: WWJD?)


And then to a point I’ve made before, which has been obvious to many of us for a very long time.

Salon, Dennis Aftergut, 30 Jun 2023: Two anti-equality decisions show billionaires’ return on Supreme Court investment, subtitled “A pair of SCOTUS decisions make clear the corruption that conservatives on the court have worked hard to obfuscate”

With Friday’s 6-3 extremist majority decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis and Thursday’s in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, the Supreme Court has us traveling backwards decades and more in its time machine of law. What’s more, there emerges a visible link between a Court majority seeking the straight White hope of yesteryear, and the recent disclosures about justices treated by billionaires to Alaskan fishing trips and private yacht adventures to Indonesia.

Friday’s decision, one of the final of the term, blows a hole through six decades of state and local public accommodations laws. Those antidiscrimination statutes and ordinances say that businesses open to the public may not refuse service to customers based on race, gender or sexual orientation. But now, under 303 Creative, there’s a loophole for not serving LGBTQ people.


Finally for today, I collected a batch of links to items on science fiction and related topics and posted them on Locus Online:

Blinks: Connie Willis, Ken Liu, Ted Chiang, Madeleine L’Engle, Iain Banks, Cormac McCarthy; Old magazines, Latin American SF, Arrival

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