The Politics of Fear

Consorting with heretics and treasonous enemies of the State. 

That was the charge levied against members of the Democratic Party of Harris County, collectively, despite the fact that the statute was obviously unconstitutional.  The Texas legislature, vocal in its claims of exceptional patriotism, had taken to frequently enacting statutes that flew in the face of the U.S. Constitution. That notwithstanding, a hyper-partisan super-majority on the Supreme Court, claiming to be originalists, interpreted the framers’ intentions quite differently from the way I viewed them. The Texas legislature was usually correct in assuming the Court would rule in its favor. Still, Malcolm Fielder felt compelled to argue in favor of the Democrats when their case came before the Court because, at the time, he believed in justice.

Malcolm arrived in court chambers early for the arguments, scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Short and stout, thinning grey hair that could have used a brush, and dressed in a dark blue pin-striped suit in need of a good pressing, he did not appear to be a man who paid particular attention to his appearance. Years earlier, when he made his first appearance before the justices, he might have had a more polished look. That day, though, he was not there to make a dressed-for-success impression; the purpose of his appearance was entirely intellectual.

Mahogany benches and furnishings, marble columns, bronze and marble staircases, and sculpted marble panels lend an air of majesty to the court chamber and the surrounding spaces. The space, drenched in dignity and decorum, reminds all who enter that respect for the Supreme Court as an institution is not only expected, but demanded.

After the procedural rituals and niceties, Malcolm launched into his presentation.

The absurdity of the charge is obvious on its face,” he began, “making accusations about religious ‘infractions’ and based on undefined terms like ‘enemies of the State’ to manipulate and prejudice the judicial system.”

It seems to me,” Chief Justice Magness Clark interjected, “that your argument makes unsupported assumptions, suggesting there is only one way—from the perspective of religion—to look at the word ‘heretics.’ And why should we view efforts to manipulate and prejudice the judicial system as improper? That is precisely what lawyers aim to do whenever they argue before judges, isn’t it?

Throughout the remainder of Malcolm’s arguments and then through the Assistant Texas Attorney General’s defense of the State’s charges, all nine members of the court asked questions and made comments that revealed their predetermined positions on the issues. Malcolm seemed undeterred by the justices’ apparent biases; he made clear arguments that would have swayed an earlier court. The composition and philosophies of this court, though, were very different from earlier times.

Soon after the Court’s ruling, which came down against members of the Democratic Party of Harris County, the number of members in the organization understandably plunged. Fearing a roundup and mass incarceration, members flooded Party headquarters with resignations by email, postal mail, text messages, and telephone calls. The drop in membership was matched by the withdrawal of candidates from a dozen races. Denise Fuego was not among those who withdrew. She said she understood why others had withdrawn, but she could not completely conceal her disappointment.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to The Politics of Fear

  1. It’s possible this will command more of my time. Some day.

  2. Patty Dacus says:

    You can’t stop now

  3. Meg Koziar says:

    To be continued?

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