The passing of Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia last week has added yet another bender to the presidential election. Scalia, a justice of great intellectural misdirection, was one of the Court’s steadfast defenders of corporate American and the religious right as well as being the off-center fulcrum by which the Court tilted to the far right. He also used the Court as a platform for personal attention and political promotion. He wasn’t the first Justice to do this, but he was certainly the grandmaster of it.
Scalia’s passing adds one more missile to the Republicans’ political quackery. Within minutes of Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned it into a political football, announcing that Republicans would not confirm any nomination by our nonwhite president to fill Scalia’s seat.
McConnell says that “the people” should have a voice in the selection of the next justice so we should wait until the next president is elected. (Do you think that he is hoping that the next president will be a Republican?) Well, Mitch, I hate to tell you, but the people did and do have a voice in this matter when they elected and then reelected President Obama. Sorry about that, buddy.
Ted Cruz, yet another right wing crackpot, politicized the issue even more in the Republican debate which followed shortly after Scalia’s passing. Cruz stated emphatically that there has been an 80 year precedent of not confirming Justices in the last year of a president’s term. Sorry, Ted, but that’s pure baloney. The confirmation of Justice Anthony Kennedy occurred in Republican President Ronald Reagan’s last year in office. When the debate moderator corrected Cruz, the crowd booed. They weren’t booing Cruz for telling a blatant lie, they were booing the moderator for having the audacity to interject some truth into the debate. So goes the Republican mentality.
It’s a stretch to think that Majority Leader McConnell didn’t know about the Kennedy confirmation. He voted for it. So did Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees the nomination process. Grassley has also vowed to block any nomination. Fox News (cringe), in their very long online article agreeing with McConnell and Grassley, mentioned the Kennedy confirmation in the very last paragraph. I am sure that this is in line with their thinking that their readers don’t have a long enough attention span to get that far.
While McConnell thinks his threat to block any nomination serves his (McConnell’s) political purposes, doing so actually helps the Democrats. Until a replacement is confirmed, the court will be split four and four, conservatives and liberals, compared to the 5-4 advantage that conservative justices held previously. This means that many of the 50 or so cases in front of the Court will be turned back to the lower courts. So, if McConnell and Grassly hold true to their word, we may see a brief reprieve from the Court’s conservative activism.
There is a possibility that the next president will be a Democrat and that the Democrats might retake the Senate. Neither of these is certain as the Democrats have a long history of screwing up even the best of situations. Whatever the outcome of that election, we are now likely to be stuck with another year of political gridlock, not only in congress, but in the Supreme Court as well. Nice going, Mitch.
I am saddened when someone passes away. I withhold some of that sentiment from people like Hitler, but in most other cases I am sad for the loss and for the families and friends of the deceased. I feel that way for Scalia. That Scalia and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg where close friends because of their mutual love of opera says something, although I’m not exactly sure what. He was certainly a dominant figure in American judicial history. Whether he has any lasting effect remains to be seen.
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