A constantly occurring theme in politics is the frustration with “activist judges.” What person (on any side of the political divide) hasn’t woken up in the morning to a new court decision that set them to charges of “legislating from the bench”? While it’s not unusual for politicians to bemoan overactive judges while they run for office, it’s very rare that they actually propose to do something about it. That’s why it was interesting to hear Mike Huckabee, in an interview with Chris Wallace, suggest that politicians shouldn’t always be beholden to high court decisions:
“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it.”
“…The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government,” Huckabee said. “Chris, the Supreme Court is not the supreme branch. And for God’s sake, it isn’t the Supreme Being. It is the Supreme Court.”
This isn’t the first time that Huckabee has suggested we need a change in the relationship between the Supreme Court and the other branches of government (he was quoted in March calling for term limits on judges), but the recent emphasis indicates Huckabee might be playing a new game. Huckabee is facing a lot of competition for his populist evangelical supporters from strong candidates like Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz. If he wants to keep them, he’s going to have to distinguish himself from the pack, and maybe he thinks judicial reform is his defining issue (though Cruz has also dipped his toe into this issue recently).
I’m not sure I agree with Huckabee’s prescription for our activist judge problem (term limits bring up questions of partiality among judges), but I have to give him credit for trying. We’ve written before that the Republican field remains wide open, so an issue like judicial reform, smartly handled, might be enough to push Huckabee up to the top of the pack.
Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.