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Political Animal

Swear to Doug

By Brian Morton | Posted 5/18/2005

We here at Animal Control have a friend named Doug. Doug is a hard-core pagan and proud of it. If at any time someone takes the Supreme Being’s name in vain (you know the one), Doug will blurt out, “Why’d you have to go and bring up the old dead guy?”

Yes, we know—Doug’s a subtle one. But we love him for it. It’s why we like to substitute his name now when we swear: “Oh, Doug-damn it!”

There are people out there who think that Doug and his kind aren’t “real Americans.” They’re the ones proposing bills to put the Ten Commandments in courthouses and claiming that Christians are being persecuted. This, in a country that has plenty of religious TV, one nation under god on all the currency, and pastors who kick Democrats out of their congregations because they won’t “repent and vote for George Bush.” We have reached a time when Christian evangelicals feel that anyone who questions them is “persecuting” them.

Unfortunately, bits and pieces of their crusade—and really, that’s what it is, a crusade, in the classic sense—are making their way into the body politic. The fundamentalists are trying to enshrine their beliefs in the law.

Don’t believe us? Google “S.520.” The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 would basically disallow the Supreme Court from reviewing any federal or state case “concerning that entity’s, officer’s, or agent’s acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” This bill is virtually identical to the “Religious Liberties Restoration Act of 2003,” which also would have specifically authorized display of the Ten Commandments in courthouses. And last year they had S.3920, which would have allowed a congressional two-thirds majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, effectively gutting the Constitution.

Remember, folks, these bills are being proposed by people who swore an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution—and they are pushing bills designed to eliminate the separation of powers and nullify the very checks and balances enshrined in that document. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

Years back, when conservatives didn’t like something, they came right out and said so. They hated Social Security when it was proposed: In 1936, Alf Landon, the GOP nominee for president against Franklin Roosevelt, called Social Security “a cruel hoax.” They hated it in 1964, when then-Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said, “Perhaps Social Security should be abolished.” Some even admit that they hate it now: GOP Congressman Chris Chocola of Indiana has said, “Eventually, I’d like to see the entire system privatized.”

Nowadays, they follow the Reagan Rule: If you don’t like something, mouth platitudes about how you’re for it and what a great institution it is, but that it needs reforming—and then gut it from the inside. They did it with labor law, they did it with civil rights, they’re trying to do it to Social Security. And now, for their coup de grâce, they want to do it to the Constitution.

The fundamentalists’ newest and latest tactic, dubbed “judicial nullification,” would allow Congress to pass laws and exempt them from judicial oversight. This gets right down to the heart of judicial review, the only real power behind the judiciary. If it weren’t for judicial review, Congress could pass whatever laws it wanted, constitutional or not, the president could sign them, and that would be that. Slavery, women’s suffrage, miscegenation laws—think of how many modern institutions could be overturned and odious practices of the past could be resurrected if the courts were prevented from doing anything. And remember: The people who were against the women’s right to vote? Back then, they were called “conservatives.” Against civil rights? They were called “conservatives.” It didn’t matter what party they came from, really. Many Democrats deserted the party and became Republicans right after Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And “the old dead guy” was always on their side.

The advance battalion for the principle of judicial nullification is, as you would expect, buried within a provision of the Real ID Act, which itself is buried in another unkillable bill, HR 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. Inside the Real ID Act is a provision that would cut the courts out of any review of how the Department of Homeland Security deals with illegal immigrants above the district court level, unless very specific conditions are met. So the battle is coming.

First the trickle, then the flood. Check for yourself: You too might start saying, “Doug-damn them!”

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