Monday, December 13, 2010

Marbury v Madison-Our first big mistake

I was the First Democrat. I took lots of abuse. If you think Glen Beck and the drug addicted, fat boy, Rush Limbaugh  are tough on Obama, you should go back and read what the press said about me. The plutocrats never liked my type who thought democracy was about the people.   In part, I guess it was because I wrote the Declaration of Independence and they preferred the rich and king.  But the personal attacks against me and my relationship with Sally is what hurt most.  I loved her, but they thought I  was just the typical slave owner ravishing their female properties. 

Well,  before I forget my train of thought, I am shocked by Justice Marshall and his court for "undoing the revolution."  These nine guys(no women allowed to sit or even vote), in Marbury v Madison,  just undid the delicately balanced  democracy we carefully put together.  Madison thought that the Supreme court would be the weakest branch of government, so we wrote teeth into the constitution  to bolster the  judicial branch.   Never in our imagination would we have thought that these nine unelected court members would declare  unconstitutional  laws passed by the peoples' elected body of the House, unelected and appointed  Senate(our own House of Lords), and signed by the president.   How dare that they declare that they are the sole arbiter of what the constitution means.

In retrospect even in 1803, I recognized our mistake, but didn't know how to undo it.  We didn't mean to create a branch with the absolute power of kings.   Structurally, the US Supreme court closely resembles the model of  absolute dictatorships.  Once in power, they stay for life and there is no recourse to their rulings on the constitutionality of laws passed by the people.  We didn't build in checks or balances  on their power as we did for the other branches, because it never occurred to us that they would rule that they were the sole arbitrators of the constitution. We thought that each branch of government had equal rights in interpreting the constitution, but the Supreme court stole the show(the Grinches that stole democracy) , such a pity and only 16 years after we established this new experiment called  democracy.   The other thing we did not anticipate was that these nine unelected old  men would  in the future live into their  80's and 90's. We thought a life appointment would be equivalent to a 10 year appointment since our life expectancy in 1800 was so much lower than 200+ years later.  If we had known that the life expectancy in the future was going to increase so much, we would have written a limited term for the supreme court members. We would have never  allowed anyone to serve 30-40 years in such an unelected position which is longer than most kings serve.   We founding fathers sure made errors which killed our own attempt at the experiment of democracy.  Our errors were not deliberate; we were just simple men living in a slow changing , seemingly static world, not anticipating rapid change.


1 comment:

  1. The people, whom you care so much for, can change the constitution directly (constitutional convention) and their representatives can impeach members of the court.

    The Supreme Court's power is thus not quite kingly power (at least as kingly power was before the more recent demotion of the English royalty to decorative status).