Opinion: Liberty and justice for all’ imperiled by MAGA wing
by Opanyi Nasiali
In 2009 I published an op-ed in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune acknowledging some landmark rulings of the United States Supreme Court, namely Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Roe v. Wade (1973). In the Brown case, the Court ruled separating public schoolchildren based on race was unconstitutional. The Loving ruling struck down state laws that banned marriage between individuals of different races. In the Roe case the Court ruled unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional.
With these rulings, the Court enhanced individual rights rather than curtailing them. The Court acted to right wrongs the other branches of government were either too slow, unable, or unwilling to rectify.
I wrote in that 2009 op-ed that I believed the courts had a legal and moral obligation to ensure the nation’s laws were fair. The assumption was the courts would be devoid of ideological considerations and would deliberate rationally. Today’s Supreme Court appears intent on chipping away and eroding individual rights.
Individual rights are inalienable and too precious to be hostage to intolerant ideology of either the “majority” or the “minority.” These rights must be protected by everyone: the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government, and the citizenry.
In the U.S. currently, the political and ideological environment is too toxic. There is even talk of civil war. In the past, interest groups organized to petition the government for their causes. Generally, they did so legally. Today extremist groups do not respect petitioning the government through legal means. They are willing to use deadly violence in pursuit of their extremist ideology. The attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, exemplifies this behavior.
The insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol acted at the behest of former President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump claimed then — and still does — that he did not lose the election. He has convinced his followers he lost the election because of “election fraud.” The courts — and other evidence — have refuted this baseless claim. The truth is that Trump lost the election to Biden. Sadly, his contention has permeated the Republican Party, which is now allowing states controlled by Republicans to enact laws that are diminishing if not completely denying voting and other rights of some people. This unfair practice is buttressed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have eliminated parts of the Voting Rights Act and repealed Roe v. Wade.
By his MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) slogan, Trump is convincing his followers to regress to an American past when the white, mainly male majority controlled everything: government, business, and other institutions. Black Americans and women were not allowed to vote. And even after emancipation, Black Americans faced new denials of rights under Jim Crow laws — the “separate but equal” racial segregation laws. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision sanctioned these laws for half a century until a later Court reversed the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
MAGA – which some refer to as Trumpism – is not forward looking; instead, it is backward looking to an America with a different demographic makeup: white majority. Believers in Trumpism are afraid of losing the privileges they have enjoyed for many years. So, they restrict voting rights and oppose a woman’s private right to choose abortion. And sadly, the Supreme Court is obliging.
Trumpism, with the acquiescence of the Republican Party, is attempting to implement authoritarianism in America. The democratic republic, as envisioned by the nation’s founders, is in danger.
All of us must be concerned about authoritarianism and protect our democracy. Only through democracy can the nation continue and strive to protect and maintain its individual rights. These inalienable rights must remain the focus and guiding light in everyone’s pursuit of happiness and freedom. We must have liberty and justice for all.
Opanyi Nasiali was a Claremont City Council member from 2011 to 2019, and served as mayor from 2013 to 2014 and 2018 to 2019.