Monday, July 1, 2024

Presidential Immunity May Be Decided Today

Now I know how a ping pong ball must feel, if it was more than an inanimate object propelled generally by human, not mechanical, force back and forth until finally one player makes a decisive or clumsy return. 

With each passing hour, argument and counterargument flood my inbox: Biden should stay the course. Biden should pass the torch to the next generation. A vote for Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris as the next president. Replacing Biden without anointing Harris would destroy Black support for Democrats (unless Biden is replaced by Corey Booker or Wes Moore).

The Biden watch has taken the focus off what may be the single most important Supreme Court decision in history, whether presidents enjoy absolute immunity for all of their actions in office, up to and including ordering the assassination of Americans, even their political rivals.  

A decision on presidential immunity is expected Monday.

Will the justices find a president is not above the law, or will they find a president has impunity to do whatever he or she wants? In this particular case, acting to overturn results of an election that scores of courts ruled were legal and without fraud, resulting in what should have been the orderly transfer of power. 

Heaven help us if the Supremes grant blanket presidential immunity.  

Given the conservative leanings of more than half the court, and their abhorrence of many restraints on the actions of executive and business power, a carte blanche presidential rule is not beyond possibility. 

The conservative justices have been steadily working to erode laws that govern actions by industries. They are eroding marital freedoms and healthcare choices and erasing the separation of church and state. 

Last week’s reversal of the Chevron Deference Principle, in effect for four decades, will catastrophically dilute the ability of government agencies to rein in corporate malfeasance and environmental abuses. 

Long-standing and new regulations and approvals issued by government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration will have their actions challenged, often to be thrown out in court. 

A most contentious possibility is that FDA approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone will be rejected by the judiciary once the pro-life community finds plaintiffs who can meet the court’s requirement for “standing,” the missing element in the recent attempt to block the distribution of Mifepristone. 

What Joe Biden decides will not change Supreme Court decisions in the near term, but it should be clear to any voter paying attention that electing a president has consequences that affect the nomination of future justices and the rights currently enjoyed by the LGBTQ+ community, reproductive rights including IVF treatments and contraceptives, marital rights, religious freedoms, voting rights and election integrity. 

Monday will be a momentous day.