Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Be Partial to Impartiality
It's what Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn't have when it comes to Donald Trump.
It's what Donald Trump doesn't have when it comes to Islam. Or Mexico. Or Hispanics in general.
It's what a lot of America's media doesn't have when it comes to peaceable coexistence between racial groups.
According to Merriam - Webster, being impartial means not being biased. It means "treating or affecting all equally."
Yet can a professional judge - let alone a sitting justice on none other than the United States Supreme Court - consider herself impartial if she tells the New York Times that it would be better to move to New Zealand than endure a Donald Trump presidency? Clarifying* her comments to CNN, apparently so we'd know she wasn't merely having a "senior moment," the octogenarian called Trump a "faker."
Should The Donald win the White House, and act on even a fraction of his bizarre policy notions, much of what he does likely will end up in the courts, and the Supreme Court may become quite busy deciding cases directly influenced by him. Ginsburg even hints at such a possibility in her remarks to the Times. So is she willing to recuse herself from those cases?
Because as a judge, she's supposed to be impartial. And obviously, she's not, and she's proud of it. Otherwise, why would an otherwise savvy and experienced justice say such things to such prominent media outlets? Granted, she's also said some pretty biased things regarding her enthusiastic support of abortion, which obfuscates any impartiality she's supposed to have on the highly contested practice.
Trump, for his part, is now calling for her to resign. But although even the Times - relishing its role in this latest presidential controversy - is also chiding Ginsburg for her bluntness, it's not exactly illegal for a Supreme Court justice to grant interviews or share personal opinions in a public forum, whether they're about a presidential candidate or abortion legislation. It's not wise for any judge to do, but there's nothing forcing Ginsburg to resign. Nevertheless, if Trump wins (or if the presidential election itself is contested), and business comes before the court involving Trump, legal experts are saying she's almost certainly going to have to recuse herself every time, because she won't be able to feign impartiality.
Of course, Trump has built a wildly unconventional presidential campaign on mocking the concept of impartiality. Everybody knows he's partial to all sorts of things, from beautiful women to, ultimately, himself. He's proudly biased against Muslims, anybody south of America's border with Mexico, and just about anybody else who disagrees with him.
His flaunting of hyper-partiality has won him legions of fans who view his brazen narcissism as a welcome respite from political correctness. Because, after all, political correctness is actually phantom impartiality, isn't it? At least the way most of its practitioners exercise it. How impartial can "tolerance" be, when politically correct tolerance is partial to only a certain tolerated viewpoint, to the exclusion of opposing views?
Yet impartiality - not political correctness - still matters in politics, doesn't it? Especially when it comes to the White House. While any politician is going to be particularly beholden to a political platform, of course, a president generally is nevertheless expected to present a certain air of impartiality as the principle representative of our diverse nation.
After all, impartiality is key when it comes to the law, which is why Ginsburg is in such hot water. A president needs to be able to at least conjure the image of justice advocacy when it comes to rationalizing why their policies are good for the country as a whole. Or why we need to support our cops after five Dallas officers get slaughtered at the end of a racially-motivated march. Or why the disenfranchised in our society shouldn't be. Or that our tax codes shouldn't be riddled with loopholes that favor certain taxpayers more than others.
And speaking of that march in Dallas last week that ended so horrifically, consider this: To what extent is America's media culpable in fomenting an atmosphere of angst and frustration based on appearances, rather than impartial facts? The media has long ago abandoned any pretense of being impartial, whether it's liberal outlets like the Times and the Washington Post, or conservative websites like Breitbart or the Washington Times. Shouldn't being impartial mean that we don't rush to judgment based on a knee-jerk analysis of incomplete facts? Yet in our instant social media world, most news organizations believe that being first with a story trumps impartial accuracy.
If racial profiling and police brutality are genuine problems, then don't they need to be addressed in a manner that brings justice to their perpetrators and for their victims? How is justice being served when the media, fully exploiting their ability to post propaganda under the guise of breaking news, is never held accountable for its impartiality?
Of course, the question of impartiality in the media extends to issues beyond racism, but these days, racism is a reliable flashpoint that is guaranteed to generate hits for the biased click-bait news websites need to justify their advertising rates. Indeed, it's a lot easier to trigger national convulsions of rage and sorrow with websites and smartphone apps than it is newspapers, or even the nightly news.
Meanwhile, to the fans of the Supreme Court's most publicly quirky, lace-loving judge, a stiff dose of partiality resonates as robustly as the partiality regularly dispensed by her least favorite presidential contender does to his. And the media laps it all up.
And we wonder why bias continues to fracture America's supposed Union?
Update 7/14/16: Justice Ginsburg has released a statement acknowledging that she regrets making such personal comments regarding a presidential contender. But she did not apologize to Trump for them.