I don’t remember when I first heard of Marbury vs, Madison, it could have been as early as 7th grade history, or perhaps in high school. I do recall from an early age that it was the 1803 Supreme Court case that confirmed the principle of judicial review, that is, the ability of the court system to determine that a statute enacted by Congress or a state legislature is contrary to the Constitution and this void and ineffective. The sentence that stuck in my mind (and given the number of times it has been quoted, in many other minds as well) was Justice John Marshall’s statement that ” it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” So President Obama’s statement regarding the “unelected judges” who might dare to overturn a statute such as his carelessly drafted health care law would be “unprecedented” was surely misplaced.
The Court has often invalidated both acts of Congress and of states when they conflicted with the Constitution. It is true that for the past 75 years or so, it has generally deferred to Congress regarding so-called “economic” regulation as being within the purview of the power to regulate interstate commerce, but since nearly all human activity, including, I suppose, flatulence, has a conceivable effect on commerce, there has to be some limiting principle. If there were not the specific grant of power to Congress would be superfluous. Fart police? It boggles the mind.
The reason we have a written Constitution in the first place is to restrain government, not enable it to do whatever a collection of special interests can cobble together a majority to do. The court system, headed by the Supreme Court, is a final backstop to legislative excess and executive arrogance.
I have heard it said that President Obama is much like Jimmy Carter. Not at all. Carter was a humble man, albeit with good reason to be humble. Obama reminds me more of Richard Nixon, who, once famously declared that the President was sovereign, and railed against the Court on a number of occasions. Don’t know about the flatulence, but plenty of vowel movement.
The only true sovereign is the individual. We cede part of our sovereignty to governing bodies at various levels, beginning with our family when we are dependent, to secure our liberty, safety, and security.