Okay, that’s it. I have been studiously trying to ignore the Republican presidential primary, but I just can’t anymore. Oh yes, you’d think Trump would have pushed me over the edge, but no! It was Huckabee! You may think the title of this post surely must be hyperbole, but bear with me here, because I have my reasons. Let’s take a look at what happened, shall we?
During an interview with radio host Michael Medved yesterday, Huckabee said the following:
‘I’ve been just drilled by TV hosts over the past week, ‘How dare you say that, uh, it’s not the law of the land?’’ Huckabee said. ‘Because that’s their phrase, ‘it’s the law of the land. Michael, the Dred Scott decision of 1857 still remains to this day the law of the land which says that black people aren’t fully human. Does anybody still follow the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision?’
I am absolutely horrified that a serious contender for the presidency could be so ignorant of history as to not know that the United States overturned Dred Scot through a constitutional amendment. If we had not amended our Constitution, then yes, it would still be the law of the land—just like it’s still the law of our land that during times of war, U.S. citizens may be rounded up and imprisoned on the basis of no evidence whatsoever if the government deems it necessary for the war effort. The only way to overturn Dred Scott was with a constitutional amendment, and we did that in 1868 when we ratified the 14th amendment.
Strangely, Huckabee appears to be aware of the 14th amendment. After all, just last month he advocated for extending 4th amendment rights to fetuses. Perhaps he is simply unaware of the reason we passed the 14th amendment? He is also apparently unaware that the 14th amendment extends citizenship to African Americans, though, which is odd given that he wants to use the amendment to extend citizenship to fetuses. Perhaps Huckabee thinks the 14th amendment applies to fetuses but not to African Americans? What about African American fetuses?
But wait! There’s more!
After correcting Huckabee, Medved then asked the candidate if he would attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling with a constitutional amendment.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Huckabee replied. “Because, in the case of this decision, it goes back to what Jefferson said that if a decision is rendered that is not borne out by the will of the people either through their elected people and gone through the process, if you just say, it’s the law of the land because the court decided, then Jefferson said, ‘You now have surrendered to judicial tyranny.’”
“Judicial tyranny.” Is that what we’re calling Brown v. Board of education, now? Is that what we’re calling Loving v. Virginia? The Supreme Court is the only reason we saw the end of de jure school segregation and the overturning of state bans on interracial marriage. If we’d waited on states to change their laws, we would very likely still be waiting. I’ve heard a lot this week about how the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to “make law.” I have to wonder what the people saying this think about the fact that it was the Supreme Court that overturned school segregation and state bans on interracial marriage.
But perhaps Huckabee wants to overturn Marbury v. Madison, because that is what he is talking about here. Marbury v. Madison was an 1803 case in which the Supreme Court granted itself the power to review the constitutionality of acts of Congress. I say “granted itself” because that is how conservatives like Michael Farris talk about it and because the U.S. Constitution, being an imperfect doctrine, was apparently a bit fuzzy on the role of the Supreme Court. To hear Huckabee talk, then, we have been living under judicial tyranny for the past 200+ years.
Actually, no, we haven’t, and you know how I know we haven’t? We can overturn a Supreme Court ruling by passing a constitutional amendment. You know, just like how we overturned Dred Scott. Except that apparently Huckabee doesn’t know about that.
Actually, color me completely confused, because when the radio host, Medved, informed Huckabee that we could overturn Obergefell with a constitutional amendment and asked him if he would pursue that route, he rejected that option and then claimed we were living under judicial tyranny. How?! How can Huckabee be informed that the people can overturn the will of the Supreme Court and immediately reject that option only to claim that we are living in a judicial tyranny?
I try to be fair, I really do. I try not to vilify those on the other side of the aisle unduly or misconstrue their words. I worry sometimes that we live in an era of hyper partisanship and I don’t want to contribute to that by making it worse. But right now, at this moment, I cannot fathom what is going on here. Have we really fallen this far? I thought civics courses were required for high school graduation, but apparently we can’t even expect the most basic civics knowledge from serious presidential candidates.