Accuracy in Media

In a new piece, Vox fails to understand the purpose of the Supreme Court. Which, for a media outlet that claims to “explain the news” is a serious failing.

That very purpose is to stop other parts of government, whether the executive or the legislature, from doing things which are illegal under the Constitution.

Not grasping this leads to complaints such as this one: “The Court’s Republican majority seems very concerned with reining in Biden’s power to fight a deadly pandemic. “ 

Leave aside the identity of the current administration, the party, the person, leave aside even the particular policy about vaccines. The purpose and point of the Supreme Court is to rein in the power of those other parts of government. This is the way it was all set up, this is the ideal. 

“ But the oral argument in the first case, NFIB, suggests that the Court’s 6-3 conservative majority is inclined to hand down a very broad decision — one that won’t simply hobble many of the Biden administration’s efforts to quell a pandemic that has killed nearly 830,000 Americans, but that could also fundamentally rework the balance of power between elected federal officials and an unelected judiciary. “

Leave aside the policy to be afflicted and think instead of the structure of the system, which is that the Supreme Court is there to rule on which legal powers those elected officials may rightfully exercise.

The Founding Fathers were fully aware of the dangers of a naked autocracy, of the Divine Right of Kings and that. Everyone in the English speaking world of the 18th century really did recall the horrors of the 17th-century English civil war over such things. Many of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence were about the British King trying to reinstate those old and overthrown powers. 

But those same Founding Fathers were also wary of the effects of untrammeled and direct democracy. So, they limited the effects of that too. The limitations on both, upon democracy and executive power being that Constitution. These people have the right to do this, those don’t, here are the operating rules for government power. The Supreme Court is the people who decide upon the details of those things. 

That’s what the system is, that’s what the system was always meant to be. Now, it could be true that what the Biden Admin wants to do is righteous and just, it might not be. But that’s not the point at all. Instead we’ve a written document that says that the administration, of whatever party, is allowed to do these things and not those. Which is what the Supreme Court is to decide upon.

Vox should do better than this. It does claim to “explain the news.” It gains some 25 million views a month, it has an extensive social media and YouTube presence and is influential in the politically minded and younger demographic — all good reasons for it to actually explain matters properly rather than on a partisan basis. 

The Supreme Court is there to, among other things, protect all of us from overreach by the executive and federal government. That it might decide against a particular policy – by an adminstration of whatever political color – is a problem with the overreach, not with the Supreme Court doing its job. 




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