Article content continued
The hard right has assailed voting rights, campaign financing, the status of immigrants and refugees. Dismantling restraints on the free market — licencing requirements, trade barriers, health and safety rules, corporate taxes — has been a passion of the libertarian plutocrat, Charles Koch, for decades.
Donald Trump has rescinded industrial clean-air standards and automotive emissions rules, and withdrawn protection for lands his predecessor designated national monuments. The ban on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been lifted.
A new conservative majority on the court will support less regulation, as well as striking down Obamacare and restricting abortion. It will remain an existential threat to any progressive program, as it was to the New Deal. In frustration, FDR tried to expand the court, and Joe Biden’s Democrats may do the same.
This refusal to accept precedent is a recurring theme in American history, which is full of rejectionists. The Deep South never accepted its loss in the Civil War. The consequence was a century of segregation and a legacy of institutional racism.
Canada lacks the imagination and ambition of America, but it is more moderate. When it adopted universal health care, liberalized immigration, abolished capital punishment and accepted same-sex marriage and abortion, there was a general acceptance.
Here, things are different. There is a distrust of government, a skepticism of science, a belief in personal freedom, the influence of religion, and rule by minority in an antiquated electoral system. All wage war on precedent. Things are open to interpretation. Nothing is fixed.
In this national conversation, there are no markers set in rocks along political trails. America needs a sense of consensus, but ideology, faith, self-interest and politics deny it.
Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.