Thoughts on America

Is it a failed state, as many seem to think these days? Or does it remain the best example of democracy and a hope for the world?

It seems appropriate on July 4, as Americans celebrate Independence Day, to give some thought to the state of the United States in 2022. Are things as bad as they appear in the media? Do Americans understand how it looks to the rest of the world as if they are on a path to self-destruction?

There ae so many facets that could be examined here, but we only have time for one today – and I’m not sure if there is a question or an answer here. I have been disturbed though by news coverage of the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned the right to abortion.

Admittedly, I have not been spending hours looking for every news article or video clip on the subject. The decision has no impact on me since I don’t live in the US. But what I have read seems to have a consistent theme.

Both the people and news media are, for the most part, opposed to this change in the law. Polling numbers indicate most Americans are in favor of abortion, though some would allow restrictions in certain circumstances. After almost 50 years of abortion being a “right,” most people accepted it as the status quo. Now things are in flux.

I have read a fair number of articles in which the justices of the Supreme Court are being attacked for their decision. There has been a lot of name calling. The attacks are personal.

I am not going to venture an opinion on the state of the US Supreme Court, its composition or its decisions. In matters legal you will inevitably have winners and losers, and a case at that level is bound to stir strong emotions.

The court tends to skew liberal or conservative depending on its composition. It has worked that way for decades. Whether that is a good thing is up for the American people to determine – if they don’t like it they have remedies. (President Franklin Roosevelt tried to add extra judges to the court in 1937 after it had found some of his programs unconstitutional, so political meddling is also not a new thing.)

One thing that has stood out for me in the recent fuss though is the perception of what a Supreme Court does and how it should rule. The president of the National Organization of Women was quoted as saying the court is “compromised” and out of step with public opinion. “They’re not ruling in favour of the people. They’re ruling in their own moral viewpoints.”

This seems to be a common view, especially among the columnists I read. Yet not once have I seen any attempt to analyze the law of the decision.

Contrary to what some people apparently think, law is based to a large degree on precedent. In overturning a previous court decision it is not enough to feel that a mistake was made, the court has to show the legal basis for that opinion.

What I have been seeing, as I said, is a lot of name calling and attacks on the justices. But nothing on why the decision is legally wrong. This disturbs me.

You want a Supreme Court to be above politics, to apply the law fairly and not worry about public opinion polls. If they are not capable of doing that, of making unpopular decisions, why do you need a court? Just let the mob rule.

In the past decades I have been disappointed at US Supreme Court decisions on matters of religious freedom and protecting democratic rights. I may have disagreed with the outcome, but didn’t feel the decision was made to advance some sort of personal or corporate agenda on the part of the justices.

They may have been wrong. I feel they were. But it was their decision to make and they had lots of case law and reasoning to back up their decisions.

They probably do this time too. But no-one is talking about it. Instead they are attacking the justices’ reputation and credibility – and in the process weakening respect for the institution.

Democracies are fragile. In recent years the American presidency became a circus sideshow, and the institution still hasn’t recovered from the Donald Trump years. It may never.

Congress seems to have lost the respect of the people as Congressmen have lost respect for each other. Much of what happens on Capitol Hill is a joke, but no-one is laughing.

Now the Supreme Court is under assault (again) by people who disagree with a decision. Where does it end? Will there be so little respect for the institutions of democracy that they fall apart?

Is America a failed state? What do you think?

One comment

  1. In a few years, after the dust settles and people have had their say at the state level, maybe abortion in the U.S. won’t be that much different than in Canada: a provincial patchwork of how late in the pregnancy one can be performed (12 to 24 weeks); availability of public funding; and proximity of clinics or hospitals.

    Maybe the turmoil in the U.S. (and I’d say in Canada and the E.U.) were inevitable because the Federal entity tries to impose ‘universal’ rules that are increasingly out of touch with the needs of the states/provinces/countries that are affected by those rules.

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