On its website, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum describes Nazi-era jurisprudence: “Hitler determined to increase the political reliability of the courts. In 1933 he established special courts throughout Germany to try politically sensitive cases. Dissatisfied with the ‘not guilty’ verdicts rendered by the Supreme Court (Reichsgericht) in the Reichstag Fire trial, Hitler ordered the creation of the People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof) in Berlin in 1934 to try treason and other important ‘political cases.’ Under Roland Freisler, the People’s Court became part of the Nazi system of terror, condemning tens of thousands of people as ‘Volk Vermin’ and thousands more to death for ‘Volk Treason.'”
There is a direct line between what was and is—what was then and is now.
In light of Friday’s 6-3 landmark decision striking down Roe v. Wade by the conservative majority on the court (including the three justices appointed by Donald J. Trump, empowered by Mitch McConnell and sanctioned by the Republican Senate) it is useful to accept that in our sacred democracy the legal system can be politicized from bottom to top. Given the dark shadow cast by Justice Clarence Thomas’s ominous statement in his concurrence—that the Supreme Court “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage—the writing that’s on the wall is on the record. We are beyond mere speculation: We can clearly see the very real damage to the United States inflicted by judges in their relentless chipping, piece by piece, at the foundation of our democratic ideals and institutions (a trifecta possibly abetted by future Executive and Legislative branches).
Fascism may not happen here exactly as it did in Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s, but a politically repressive government can arise through legal reinterpretation by those appointed to the bench for ideological beliefs rather than judicial knowledge and wisdom. So, please vote your heart out in 2022, 2023 and especially 2024, or we might have a deadly variant of democracy infecting the body politic.