By George Curry and Hazel Trice Edney
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Having won re-election with little Black political support, President George Bush is expected to appoint three or four right-wing judges to the Supreme Court. Such a move is virtually guaranteed to eventually end the use of affirmative action programs in public institutions.
Pres. Bush is also expected to preside over a second term that will be characterized by cuts in domestic programs to offset the $1.9 trillion tax cuts over the next decade and a $422 billion deficit from his first term, political experts and activists predict.
“He won’t have any reason to do anything for Black people,” explains Ron Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “There was a massive Black vote against him. However, second terms are interesting because they (incumbents) don’t face any competition. He doesn’t really have to play games in order to get re-elected, so it’s conceivable that he might, although I don’t expect that we would, go as far as trying to make any common cause with any centrist parts of the Black community.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton doesn’t think there is a remote likelihood of Pres. Bush moving beyond his tight circle of conservative advisers.
“Let’s all head to the airport and get out of the country,” Rev. Sharpton says, facetiously. “I think we are in for some serious times. He will appoint judges to the Supreme Court that I think will try to erode some of the gains we made under the Civil Rights Movement and he clearly will have economic policies that will reward the rich. If there ever was a time that we had to gear up activism and put pressure on Congress like we’ve never done before, now is the time.”
Despite a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll purportedly showing Pres. Bush enjoying 18 percent support among Blacks, exit polls showed that he received approximately 10 percent of the Black vote, up only one percent from four years ago.
If Pres. Bush’s first term is any indication, with Republicans controlling every branch of government–executive, legislative and judicial–he will leave more of a conservative legacy than Ronald Reagan’s eight years in the White House during the 1980s.
Nowhere will that be more evident than on the U.S. Supreme Court. Speculation about possible retirements from the court has focused on Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, who has been treated for thyroid cancer, and Justices John Paul Stevens, 84, and Sandra Day O’Connor, 74.
Seven of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents and most civil rights victories have been decided by five to four votes, with Justice O’Connor usually being the swing vote. Pres. Bush has pledged to appoint judges in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two of the most conservative members of a conservative court. Because federal judges are given life-long appointments, the court can rebuff progressive initiatives for another half-century.
“Expect more right-wing hostility toward civil rights and social justice,” warns Rev. Jesse Jackson. “Expect more attempts to buy our leadership. We must resist, at every level, attempts to stack the courts with right-wing judges, when they seek to use FCC rulings to monopolize the media, when they seek to make court decisions against our interests. We must be more vigilant, more determined and more resistant than ever. This will be a difficult period, but we still have resourceful people. We have a lot to fight back with.”
Pres. Bush demonstrated during his first term that he doesn’t mind talking like a “compassionate conservative” while firmly opposing even mild affirmative action programs, such as the one practiced by the University of Michigan Law School. Before it was upheld by a conservative Supreme Court, Pres. Bush sent his solicitor general into court to oppose Michigan’s undergraduate and law school programs. The Court, on a 5-4 vote, upheld the law school’s admissions process and rejected the undergraduate program.
In a statement issued after the rulings, Pres. Bush praised the Supreme Court for upholding the concept of diversity, even though his administration had argued against the program.
Instead of favoring affirmative action, he will continue to back what he calls “race-neutral” approaches to diversity.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other groups have conducted studies showing that the so-called race-neutral approach used by public universities, in Texas and California for example, are not as effective as race- and gender-conscious remedies.
Nevertheless, because of last year’s ruling, some universities are either eliminating or radically altering programs designed to increase Black enrollment.
With authorized war and rebuilding appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan now exceeding $200 billion, coupled with a federal budget that went from a $256 billion surplus when Pres. Bush entered office to a projected $422 billion in fiscal 2004 and rising to $2.7 trillion in 10 years, budget officials say domestic spending will dwindle during his second term.
On top of those figures, his tax cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthy, are expected to cost the U.S. treasury $1.9 trillion over 10 years.
The Washington Post obtained a White House Office of Management and Budget memo earlier this year that warned all federal agencies in charge of domestic programs to expect budget cuts.
“But the cuts are politically sensitive, targeting popular programs that Bush has been touting on the campaign trail,” the Post reported. “The Education Department; a nutritional program for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeownership, job-training, medical research and science programs all face cuts in 2006.”
Pres. Bush, the first president since Herbert Hoover to end a term with fewer people working than when he started, will be under pressure to create more jobs. The U.S. has 585,000 fewer jobs now than when he took office.
“I think by the end of his term, because he has not generated job growth, the effect of this weak labor market will be that the economy will collapse back on itself,” says Bill Spriggs, an economist. “We will continue to see incomes stagnate and then start to fall. I think it’s realistic because he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.”