Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cutting Off Our Partisan Noses To Spite Our Ideological Faces

     Our South Dakota Republican U. S. Senators, along with conservatives everywhere, just got a bad taste of what an understaffed U.S. Supreme Court will create with Scalia's seat
Rounds (l.) & Thune
Aquiescent & Compliant 
Senior Senator John Thune and his junior colleague Mike Rounds, dutifully going alone with their majority leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators, have been fighting against their Constitutional mandate to advise and consent to President Obama's nomination (Merrick Garland) to fill the SCOTUS vacancy created by the recent death of conservative demigod Antonin Scalia.  When Scalia was on board, the court was generally regarded to hold a 5-4 edge in favor of conservative justices.  Since his death, the court's ideological balance has gone to 4-4, meaning that a split decision is in a legal limbo that leaves the lower court's decision intact.  

     In this particular case, the 8-person court divided evenly on a decision (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assocation) over whether California public school teachers should be forced to pay union dues even if they didn't belong to the union.  The long-standing policy was that even non-members had to pay at least a portion of the dues because union collective bargaining efforts were responsible for the pay and benefits that all teachers, not just union members, receive.  Non-members objected to the policy because, even though they're exempted from paying a portion of dues that are dedicated directly to political activities,  they believe that the collective bargaining process itself, conducted as it is with public agencies, involves inherently controversial political choices.   Teachers are competing for tax dollars, which indeed puts a political slant on government decisions as to how to allocate those dollars.
     side with the plaintiffs, not the unions, on this one.  Being a teacher is not a sentence to 100% agreement with other teachers on how best to spend public money just because teachers are paid out of the public treasury.  That seems to me a principle that extends to many an organization that is involved in public policy-making and -implementation.  An example?  One does not need to be a compliant Republican United States Senator just because one is a Republican United States Senator. Political fealty is not the job description of a an elected official.  As I would bet most South Dakotans agree, independent thought and action are really okay, okay?  
     Given its precedent-setting potential, Friedrichs v. CTA will no doubt be refiled once SCOTUS is at full strength.  How long will that take?  You tell me. How Obama's nominee Garland
Here Come Da Boss
GOP Leader McConnell
(photo from
would have voted is impossible to assess, but Garland has long had a good reputation among Republicans and all the biographical data I could find on him make much of the high regard he's held in by his peers. There is no reason to distrust his judgement.  Having roots in California and knowing many teachers (my wife among them at one time) in that state, I know this issue has been festering for decades.  Win-or-lose, this was the opportunity for antagonists to get some final disposition on the matter.  Now we have to wait for who knows how long as the interminable political process puts a decision on hold.  

    Meantime we're stuck with a status quo that has long been anathema to conservatives. This is poetic justice for those like Thune and Rounds who believe that political considerations are the standard by which public business should be conducted--even if the public disagrees*  by a wide margin.**

*Go to page 13 of this WaPo-ABC news poll to find 63% believe the Senate should hold hearings on Obama's nominee.

**Go to page 8 of this CNN/ORC poll that finds 66% believe the Senate should hold hearings.


  1. A split decision on your opinion here, John: I concur that had Justice Scalia sat on this case, the outcome would have been different; however, in my opinion, the decision should have been in favor of the CTA. Justification for those who receive a multitude of bargained benefits without providing their fair share of the cost is not, and should not be, justified. Perhaps a good topic for face to face discussion.

  2. I shall warrant the people of SD need not await the 'pleasure' of the United States Senate. IM 23 will provide them with an opportunity to repeal the 'moocher tax' SD law currently imposes on unions. TANSTAAFL!