OurWeek In Politics (6/25-7/1/18)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. Supreme Court Upholds Trump Executive Order Banning Travel & Immigration To/From Six Muslim Majority Countries

In a close decision, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s executive order banning residents from 6 majority-Muslims countries to the US.

On June 26, the  Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, delivering Trump a key political victory and an endorsement of his power to control immigration at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border.  In a close 5 to 4 decision, the court said that the President’s power to secure the country’s borders, delegated by Congress over decades of immigration lawmaking, was not undermined by President Trump’s incendiary statements about the dangers he claimed that Muslims (predominantly of the Shi’a sect) pose to the US. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Trump had statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration. The more liberal members of the court denounced the decision. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was similar to Korematsu V. United States, a 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Sotomayor praised the court for officially overturning Korematsu in its decision on Tuesday, but by upholding the travel ban, Justice Sotomayor said that the court “merely replaces one gravely wrong decision with another.”

President Donald Trump, who has battled court challenges to the travel ban since the start of his administration, hailed the decision to uphold his third version as a “tremendous victory” and promised to continue using his office to defend the country against terrorism, crime and extremism. “This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House soon after the decision was announced.

Despite the fact that President Donald Trump and many members of the Republican Party strongly endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision, civil liberty groups throughout the country denounced the ruling. Jamal Abdi, the Vice President of Policy at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), condemned the ruling, arguing that it goes agains the principles of the US Constitution and the ideas of tolerance and respect for all individuals regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or religion.“ The Supreme Court has added Trump’s Muslim Ban to the list of American moral failures that future generations will lament. This travesty of justice is a far cry from the Supreme Court that struck down segregation and bans on same sex marriage. History will view this decision along with other outrageous decisions that upheld and solidified official government-sanctioned discrimination,” said Abdi in a statement. Additionally, Abdi stated that his organization will be at the forefront of all efforts to convince Congress to repeal this discriminatory measure and to prevent such policy from setting a negative precedent for future Presidential decisions.

2. Justice Anthony Kennedy Retires From The Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the nation’s highest court, ending 30 years of service.

On June 27, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a crucial swing vote on the Court as well as a largely liberal Republican, announced that he intends on retiring at the end of July, giving President Donald Trump another chance to fundamentally reshape the highest court in the land. His departure could have major and long-lasting effects on American public policy, particularly on issues such as abortion rights, gay rights, civil rights for non-white Americans, and civil liberties.  and gay rights nationwide. Kennedy’s planned retirement announcement immediately raised questions about how long the court would stand by its earlier rulings on the issue of abortion such as Roe V. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood V. Casey (1992).

In a statement, Kennedy stated that it was “the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years in the Supreme Court.” He also sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday notifying the president of his decision.  “For a member of the legal profession, it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court,” he wrote. “Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”

Despite his past opposition to Justice Kennedy on several issues, President Donald Trump called Kennedy a “great justice” who has displayed “tremendous vision and heart.” in a press conference on June 28. President Trump’s first nominee to the court,  Neil Gorsuch, has already had an enormous effect on U.S. policy in narrowly decided rulings this week related to Trump’s ban on travel from certain countries, abortion and labor unions. The president said his next choice would come from a previously released list of 25 candidates, which includes the ultra-conservative Appeals Judges Thomas Hardiman and William Pryor, as well as Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a respected conservative legal scholar known for his work on civil liberties issues.

The retirement of Justice Kennedy immediately sparked much debate amongst members of Congress and legal scholars alike regarding the future of the nations highest court. Members of the Republican Party feel that Kennedy’s retirement will cement the court’s conservative majority (which has been dominant on the court since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan) and result in conservative decisions on cases ranging from Abortion, Gay Rights, Religious Freedom, and Civil Rights. On the other hand, liberals feel that a shift in a more conservative direction goes directly against the values held by a majority of American people.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised a Senate vote on whomever President Trump nominates by the fall. With only one Republican vote needed to derail a nomination, Democrats are hoping they might be able to sway the liberal Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) and Susan Collins (R-ME). On the other hand, several conservative Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) have announced that they would support President Trump’s nominee under certain conditions.

3. Recep Tayyip Erdogan Re-elected As Turkish President

In a resounding referendum on his policies, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected on June 25 in a somewhat controversial race.

On June 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged victorious in a high-stakes election, defeating the most serious challenge to his 15-year political dominance in Turkey and tightening his grip on the nation. In spite of ever-growing opposition to his policies and a steadily declining economy, Erdogan declared himself the winner shortly before official results were confirmed. With nearly 98% of the votes counted, Sadi Guven, chief of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board, said that Erdogan had won an absolute majority, avoiding a runoff against his main challenger Muharrem Ince. State media put Erdogan at 52% of the vote, over 20% more than Ince’s vote total. “The winners of the June 24 elections are Turkey, the Turkish nation, sufferers of our region and all oppressed (people) in the world,” Erdogan said in a victory address in the Turkish capital Ankara.

President Erdogan starts a new five-year term as president with sweeping new powers granted in a narrowly-won referendum last year, denounced by his critics as an attempt to garner increased power and influence. Under the new Turkish governmental system, the office of prime minister is abolished, parliament’s powers reduced, and the president is accorded a wide-ranging executive authority. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the implementation of the constitutional amendments “is important for our stability and economic development.” It’s a new system for us,” he said, adding that it was approved by the Turkish electorate.

The reaction to Erdogan’s election victory was somewhat mixed. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Erdogan on his re-election, stating that “the outcome of the vote fully confirms Erdogan’s great political authority, broad support of the course pursued under his leadership towards solving vital social and economic tasks facing Turkey, and enhancing the country’s foreign policy positions.” Additionally, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani similarly endorsed Erdogan’s re-election, expressing hope that the increasingly-strong relations between Iran and Turkey will deepen further.  On the other hand, the leadership of the European Union (EU) questioned the results of the election and the changing nature of the Turkish government, stating that changes in governmental structure will reduce Turkey’s chances of joining the EU.

4. The government of Saudi Arabia Lifts Long-Standing Ban on Women Driving

The government of Saudi Arabia ended it’s long-standing ban on women drivers this week.

Much to the shock of numerous international observers, the government of Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women driving on June 25. The end of the controversial ban brings the ultra-conservative nation in line with the rest of the world and represents the culmination of years of campaigning by rights activists who have sometimes been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for their efforts. More than 120,000 women applied for the drivers license the day the ban was lifted, according to senior Ministry of Interior and Traffic Directorate officials. “Demand for obtaining driving licenses is very high,” said Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki, the official spokesman of the Ministry of Interior.

The change in policy, first announced in September of 2017, liberates many Saudi women from the constraints of needing to hire a male driver to travel even the smallest distances, allowing many to join the workforce, grow their own businesses, and the ability to travel throughout the country unencumbered. The removal of the ban was a key centerpiece of Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to modernize the authoritarian monarchy being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS)

Despite the fact that the plan represents a positive change in Saudi policy, much reform needs to be done to improve the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Numerous other restrictions on women’s everyday lives remain in place under the male guardian system, including the right to work, travel abroad, and the freedom to marry without one’s guardian’s permission. Additionally, numerous activists who have fought for the right for women to drive were arrested by the Saudi government last month for their efforts to bring attention to the plight that Saudi women face on a daily basis.
the author

Matt is a graduate of Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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