One of the most insidious effects of the Republican Party being taken over by MAGA extremists is the lawlessness that is to come as the American people refuse to recognize the moral or legal authority of corrupt legislatures, governors and courts. Anyone who was appointed or nominated by Donald J. Trump will not be seen as a legitimate authority figure.
Take U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas. Anti-abortion activists went shopping for an anti-abortion Trump judge before whom to bring their lawsuit to ban mifepristone, the popular abortion drug.
In a speech last month urging President Biden and the Food and Drug Administration to ignore whatever Kacsmaryk decides, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked, “How did it come to be that this one single judge in Texas is on the verge of blocking access to a drug that a duly-authorized federal agency has deemed safe for over 20 years — and blocking it nationwide?”
Wyden called Kacsmaryk “the most lawless judge in the country” by virtue of his decisions against LGBTQ employees, asylum seekers at the border and birth control for minors. Kacsmaryk came to Trump’s attention because he was a champion of “religious liberty,” which once meant the freedom to worship as one pleased and has now been perverted to mean the freedom to force one’s religious views on everyone else.
“The power of the judiciary begins and ends with its legitimacy in the eyes of the public,” said Wyden. “It does not have the military backing of the executive branch or Congress’s power of the purse.”
So the stage is set for the American people to simply ignore activist judges who force their religious views on the rest of us, and that includes the U.S. Supreme Court.
When John F. Kennedy was running for president, voters worried that a Catholic president would take orders from the Pope. That didn’t happen, but something very close to it has happened in recent years. Six of the nine members of the Supreme Court are now Catholics, so it’s no surprise that, in reversing 50 years of precedent, they overturned Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to reproductive free choice.
The Dobbs decision overturning Roe wasn’t jurisprudence, it was theocracy. The same theocratic court also overturned Maine’s law prohibiting tax dollars from being spent on religious education. Both the Maine law and Roe were good laws supported by the majority of citizens.
Forget the separation of church and state. In conservative states, the state now is the church as malevolent moralists use their power to enforce conservative values.
Tennessee governor Bill Lee has just signed a bill that bans “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers” in public places or anywhere a minor might see them.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, the Texas Heartbeat Act, that prohibits abortions after six weeks.
And we all know how Florida’s dictator Ron DeSantis is bullying LGBTQ, POC and immigrants, even punishing the Disney Corporation for opposing his anti-gay agenda.
When laws and policies are wrong, people of conscience have no choice but to break them.
“One may well ask,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back in one of his 1963 letters from the Birmingham jail, ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just laws and there are unjust laws.”
That’s what civil disobedience is all about. That is the lawlessness to come.
Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.