Although democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is receiving some criticism on social media for a Thursday tweet about what his requirements for a Supreme Court nominee would be, his avid supporters seemed to pay no heed to Sanders’ apparent disregard for how the Supreme Court operates.
In tweets posted Thursday, Sanders expressed his disapproval for the 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision that upheld the First Amendment’s right to free speech by prohibiting the U.S. government from restricting nonprofit organizations’ political endorsements and expenditures. The case controversy first arose when Citizens United, a conservative lobbying group, was prevented from airing “Hillary: The Movie,” a film that contained criticism of Clinton, on TV broadcasts during Clinton’s campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination.
The Supreme Court’s deciding principles have since been extended to other types of organizations, gutting controversial campaign finance laws.
In his tweet, Sanders declared, “Any Supreme Court nominee of mine will make overturning Citizens United one of their first decisions.”
Any Supreme Court nominee of mine will make overturning Citizens United one of their first decisions.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 22, 2016
We have to overturn Citizens United and move to the public funding of election, so the wealthy and the powerful cannot buy elections.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 21, 2016
The Supreme Court, however, is constitutionally limited in how it can address previous rulings, as it must wait for an actual case to arise before it can readdress a previous decision. The court can overturn or affirm a precedent only with a majority of the justices on board.
“The Federal Courts do not, under Article III of the Constitution, have the power to resolve legal questions that do not arise out of an actual dispute between real parties,” according to Cornell University Law School’s website
In response to Sanders’ initial tweet, Andrew Kirell, a senior editor for the Daily Beast, called him out on his misunderstanding of how the Supreme Court operates.
Um…that’s not how it works. pic.twitter.com/sVDIhPdku9
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) January 22, 2016
Some of Sanders’ supporters seem to remain, nonetheless, undeterred by his apparent lack of understanding regarding the Supreme Court’s operations and technicalities.
@BernieSanders – wonderful news!
— Yarnie (@TweetingYarnie) January 22, 2016
@BernieSanders I think that is brilliant and levels the playing field like it used to be when we had no rich goof offs like Mr Trump running
— DebM (@DMORGAN0505) January 22, 2016
— Paulius Litvaitis (@PaulLitvaitis) January 22, 2016
— Connor (@alsoconnor) January 22, 2016
Other social media users, however, called Sanders on his bluff.
[Justices gather on first day of Term] "I vote to overturn Citizens United!" "But… this case is about ERISA I don't th…" "CITIZENS UNITED!"
— delrayser (@delrayser) January 22, 2016
Maybe Bernie Sanders doesn't realize the Supreme Court isn't a one person show.
— Allen McDuffee (@AllenMcDuffee) January 22, 2016
The most important issue in this election is the Supreme Court. I've got concerns about whether Sanders gets that. https://t.co/EXIuZYMXZx
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) January 22, 2016
Follow Kathryn Blackhurst (@kablackhurst) on Twitter