Onwards and backwards: It’s the day after the Fourth, metaphorically speaking


For many Americans, Independence Day is an opportunity to cheer the birth of the United States.

For some others, the Fourth offers a chance to reflect on the ideals that underpin the US constitution – liberty and equality.

And for still others, July 4 is an excuse to have a jolly good party.

Any, or all, of these are good reasons to celebrate the Fourth.

Even before this July 4, the celebratory mood was a bit muted.

More than three-quarters of Americans are currently dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US, according to Gallup’s most recent survey. In 2001, by contrast, 7 in 10 Americans were satisfied with the way things were going, according to the long-running poll.

One reason is the conservative-dominated US supreme court, which is only a bit younger than America. It has rather sullied the party ahead of Independence Day with sweeping rulings that entrench polarising positions. The rulings – on presidential immunity and federal agencies’ authority to interpret vague laws – cap a string of other controversial decisions – on women’s reproductive health, gun control, the environment and separation of church and state.

All of these threaten to put the US in reverse gear.

From 1790, the court’s first assembly, judges have mostly sought to expand liberty and equality. But the likely consequences of the recent rulings will take people and society backwards. Any sensible examination of the likely consequences of the rulings indicates that we’re moving onwards…and backwards.