Columns » Hightower

Mr. President: Put a populist on the court




Good grief, here we go again!

When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he would be stepping down from the high bench at the age of 90, politicos, pundits and even most progressive activists immediately began chattering about where his replacement should stand on abortion, gay marriage, gun ownership, the death penalty and other social issues.

But as important as all of these are, the crying need on this Supreme Court is for a new, populist-minded justice who will unflinchingly stand up to corporate arrogance and avarice.

No single issue comes close in importance to the broad threat that is now posed to America's very democracy by what Thomas Jefferson called "the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations." The rise of corporate plutocracy reached a dangerous apex in January. In a sneak attack mounted behind an obscure election case, five overtly corporatist justices pulled off a judicial coup. They unilaterally proclaimed that corporations are "persons" with a Constitutional "right" to spend unlimited sums of money to buy our elections!

Who was the most eloquent and forceful opponent of this ludicrous usurpation of The People's authority? John Paul Stevens.

That's why it is so important — not only to progressives, but also to real conservatives — for President Obama to choose a replacement who will pick up where Stevens left off. Indeed, Obama should make the confirmation fight a national referendum on this outlandish enthronement of corporate power by the five extremist right-wing justices. And he just might!

In comments after Justice Stevens' retirement announcement, the president said he wants a nominee who "knows that in democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."

To push for a populist advocate on the court, connect with Public Citizen at

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