Americans for Prosperity, a tea party group chaired by infamous energy billionaire David Koch, backed a similar revenge campaign against three Florida justices who kept an unconstitutional attempt to nullify the Affordable Care Act off the 2010 ballot. This campaign failed as well. All three justices won their retention races by comfortable margins.
Lest there be any doubt, these two campaigns were nothing less than a rejection of the idea that judges are bound by the law. The Iowa Constitution provides that “[a]ll laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” These words unambiguously require gay couples to be granted the same marriage rights as straight couples. Similarly, the Koch-backed effort to remove the Florida justices centered around the dangerously wrongheaded notion that a state can nullify a federal law it does not want to follow. This notion simply cannot be squared with the U.S. Constitution, which provides that duly enacted federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land.”
So yesterday’s retention elections were more than a victory for four justices who have, at times, gone against the whims of the right. It was a victory for the rule of law itself.