The Christianist Agenda: SCOTUS Term Limits

U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 2015

The Christianist thinking goes like this: the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t rule the way we want. Therefore, we need different supreme court justices who support our agenda. We can’t impeach them. So let’s create term limits. We’ll wrap it in bogus claims about the Federalist Papers and see if we can sell it to the voters.

Stripped of rhetoric, that’s the latest flag run up the political flagpole by Christianist Presidential Wannabe Mike Huckabee. In a speech at the Nixon Presidential Library, former Governor Huckabee said:

Nobody should be in an unelected position for life. If the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40. That has never made sense to me; it defies that sense of public service.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Huckabee went on to say that the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, supported his view that the nation’s founders “came close” to imposing judicial term limits in the Constitution; they never could have imagined people would want to serve in government for decades.

“Came close”? Anyone who has actually read the Federalist Papers as opposed to read a twitter feed or listened to Fox News describe them understands that the Federalist Papers discuss many of the pros and cons on the checks and balances written into the U.S. Constitution. In the end, the Papers come down solidly in favor of lifetime appointments. And Governor Huckabee wants to be careful citing to the Federalist Papers. After all, they opposed adoption of the Bill of Rights. Huckabee loves to wrap himself in the First and Second Amendments; you know, the Bill of Rights.

But as to the judiciary, Alexander Hamilton, writing as “Publius” in Federalist No. 78, said:

If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty.

It wasn’t a “close question” for Hamilton; it was an absolute necessity. By creating lifetime appointments, the Founders wanted to shield judges from the political pressures of the day. A second reason for having ancient, long-serving justices is that they are far more likely to be impervious to the fleeting populist bugaboos and contemporary preferences that drive crazy ideas like Huckabee’s cause. Justices may be bewildered by technology, but on the bright side, some of them still believe that protecting free speech, avoiding a theocracy, giving individual liberties some meaning and counterbalancing the idiocies of Congress are more important than Huckabee’s political agenda.

Huckabee wants to tinker with the checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution to achieve his personal political agenda. The sheer arrogance disqualifies him from elective office.

Huckabee wants to further politicize the least political branch of the federal government. That alone should give any thinking American pause, liberal or conservative. Huckabee wants you to think he’s smarter than the Founding Fathers.



3 thoughts on “The Christianist Agenda: SCOTUS Term Limits

  1. It may well be a christianist agenda item. But it is not ONLY a christianist agenda item. U. Cal. Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky favors term limiting the justices. See his new book, The Case Against the Supreme Court. Several years ago, he wrote an Op-Ed in which he agreed with TX Gov Rick Perry’s suggestion of term limits for the justices. The progressive law organization, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, has featured the topic for discussion, thought and debate. See,

    Nonetheless, I agree with you that there should be no change. There can be effective term limits now if Dem and GOP presidents would nominate much older nominees and/or the Senate was less disposed to confirm younger nominees. Thomas was early 40s when he was confirmed. The Chief and Kagan and Scalia were late 40s, fifty-ish. Sotomayor wasn’t much older but a lot of people tried to put one of her feet in her grave upon confirmation due to her diabetes, figuring she’s not long for this world and had already outlived expectations. And so on and so on. Plainly, Dem and GOP presidents do not agree with term limits as neither seems to want to allow Nature to take its course on its nominees any time soon. They bet on younger, healthier types. The Senate could easily stop it if it wanted to as there’s no constraint on the vote to confirm.

    Paul Eaglin

    • Now there’s a group that knows how to use Nature as term limit. The college of cardinals had good reason to expect John Paul 2 to be around a while when they elected him in his late 50’s. As for Papa Francisco, even he says he is unlikely to be pope for long. Mid-70s with one lung, and all that, at time of his election.

      Paul Eaglin

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