“If there is no struggle there is no progress. … Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
That 1857 quote from Frederick Douglass accurately describes our current circumstance and gives little hope for a future consistent with the principles of governance outlined under the Constitution. We face an erosion of the freedoms that originally applied to free, white, land-owning men and extended only by struggle to women, the progeny of enslaved persons, Native Americans and others illegitimately forced by social convention to surrender the benefits of full citizenship.
Unfortunately, too many of us have been lulled into the submission predicted by Douglass by either ignorance, apathy or both. Many have become the dupes of “victim propaganda” believing the spoon-fed fiction of helplessness in the face of oppression. And even though our lives are enmeshed in the social and societal processes of this nation, others are convinced and spread the message of malaise, that we should reject participation in deciding those who manage the processes that affect us daily.
Rather than allowing those who read me to go unaware, I want to clang the bell about another occasion for us to join the struggle. As with Roe, the struggle may not yield desired outcomes, but, through the struggle, “we will not go quietly into the night.” As I write this, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has agreed to entertain an argument allowing state legislatures instead of voters to determine the outcome of elections.
Moore v. Harper is scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court of the United States during the court’s October 2022-2023 term. According to the SCOTUS docket page, the case concerns the independent state legislature doctrine, which theorizes that state legislatures alone are empowered by the Constitution to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts.
The question presented: Whether a state’s judicial branch may nullify the regulations governing the “manner of holding elections for senators and representatives and replace them with regulations of the state courts’ own devising, based on vague state constitutional provisions purportedly vesting the state judiciary with power to prescribe whatever rules it deems appropriate to ensure a ‘fair’ or ‘free’ election.”
The short version: Moore v. Harper concerns the independent state legislature doctrine, which theorizes that state legislatures alone are empowered by the Constitution to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts. The lower court ruling that SCOTUS agreed to review states: We hold that our constitution’s Declaration of Rights guarantees the equal power of each person’s voice in our government through voting in elections that matter. A SCOTUS reversal of the lower court’s ruling would give authority to state legislatures to regulate Federal elections without judicial oversight. On this authority, they could design partisan districts to maintain power in perpetuity or choose the winners themselves.
A Washington Post analysis concludes: “Immense power would go to legislative bodies that are themselves undemocratic, many advocates say, because they have been gerrymandered to create partisan districts, virtually ensuring the party-in-power’s candidates cannot be beaten. Republicans control both legislative chambers in 30 states and have been at the forefront of pushing the theory.”
SCOTUS will make a choice. We must make our choice, also!