Saturday, October 17, 2020

"When You Find Hypocrisy In The Daylight, Look For Power In the Shadows" - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse At Barrett Hearings

I didn't see all of the Amy Coney Barrett hearings.  But of what I saw, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had the most insightful things to say.  He stepped back and put this particular nomination into both the context of recent events and also much longer term events.  As he says, he's looking beyond the stage of the puppet theater of the hearing to see who's pulling the strings and pushing the sticks that move the puppets.  

Most important is his following the money that:

  • Has spent 40 years educating law students in a very conservative way of interpreting the law.
  • Funded shadow organizations that make multiple  Friend of the Court filings on the court cases they have themselves created
  • Also funded Federalist Society that gives Trump his Supreme Court nominee names

He looks at where the money comes from and traces most of it back to the same few people.

He then says, while the media have focused on abortion and LGBTQ rights (which are important), the real story deals with 80 cases that were decided by 5-4 rulings along partisan lines.  These cases had four themes important to large corporations:

  • Unlimited Dark Money - that allows the wealthy and corporations (yes those do overlap) control legislatures that make the rules and even to get people appointed as head of federal agencies that regulate them.  Citizen United is the key decision here, but there are many others
  • Knock the Civil Jury Down - The powerful can't control civil juries like they can control Congress.
  • Weaken Regulatory Agencies - particularly pollutors to weaken their independence and strength
  • Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering - making it harder to vote for citizens who might vote against their interests - Shelby County decision on no factual record against overwhelming support on the other side, that knocked out voter suppression protections and a bunch of states started suppressing the vote.  Same on gerrymandering.  
Whitehouse makes a great presentation providing the evidence clearly.  This is critical to getting a good sense what's happening and why Democrats are upset with this nomination.  The Republicans have been packing the courts for years and years - through 
  • creating a legal theory, Originalism, that I consider the Intelligent Design of Constitutional Law, and 
  • through blocking Democratic nominees and holding off Merrick Garland, so they could fill those seats
I don't put up that many third party videos here.  Only ones I think are really worth your time.  So please figure out a good time when you can listen and then do so.

While we're on this topic, let me also point out that the words "extreme liberal" is not the opposite of "extreme conservative."  

"Extreme liberals" on the court have worked hard for individual rights - desegregating schools, supporting voting rights, giving women equal rights to men, recognizing the rights of LGBTQ folks.

"Extreme conservatives" have fought all those individual rights in favor of the rights of corporations, going so far to apply the individual rights in the Bill of Rights to corporations.  

The liberals are much more in synch with the beliefs of most US citizens.  The conservatives push legal theories that go against what most citizens hold, but they do a good job of marketing their contrary positions, by framing abortion as murder, and just outright lying.  

The two articles below offer more on this:

Mother Jones article on Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse comments at Barret hearing:

Here's a piece written by Sheldon Whitehouse spelling out the dark money interests in shaping he Supreme Court and how they do it.  


  1. Steve, have you read "Evil Geniuses" by Kurt Anderson yet? In all my reading in the last year about American government and society and where it's gone wrong, this is by far the best book I've found. Well written, conversational tone, doesn't require a PhD to follow along, and it covers all the bases of economy, jurisprudence, culture and governance and tied it all together.

    Your post brings this to mind because Anderson talks a lot about "originalism" and the Federalist Society and how the radical conservatives are taking over the judicial system. He's saying the same things as Whitehouse.

    1. No, don't know that book. Checked the library and there are no local copies and they aren't doing loans from other branches during the pandemic. But I'll look for it. Thanks.

    2. well, it turns out the book IS available and I have a curbside pickup scheduled for Saturday.

  2. It just came out last month so maybe hasn't arrived yet at your library. I have gotten into the habit of reading book reviews in the NYTimes and immediately requesting interesting books from the library. With e-books, they will often have a placeholder if they have not purchased the book, or if it's not yet available. By getting in the queue in advance, I get to read some books immediately after publication. Makes me feel so trendy, a nice contrast to my dowdy, old-fashioned real life.


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