Scalia’s Seat Must Remain Unfilled!


I’m about to advocate for a position that I personally abhor.  But such is the state of contemporary politics. It’s a deplorable position because it contradicts the very foundations of my philosophy about government. After all, though I see government as the Original Sin, if we are going to have one, I would like it to be functional. Functional government, however, is too much to ask today. One party is fully dedicated to a Machiavellian pursuit of power at the expense of anything resembling political principles, civic responsibility or even a facade of the greater good. The other party, having long since sold its soul to the corporate elite, is bereft of even the legitimacy to convince mice to vote against the cat’s dinner choices.

So here we are.

Last February, when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, the Republican Party launched what was arguably the most cynical act of political obstruction in American History. They refused to allow President Obama’s nominee, the universally respected, albeit politically milquetoast, Merrick Garland even the opportunity of a hearing, let alone a vote.

Their rationale was a misinterpretation of the so-called Biden Rule in which voting on a Supreme Court justice during an election year should be put off until after the election. The Biden Rule has never been invoked, but regardless, the Republican Party not only postponed the vote until after the election, they postponed the hearing…until after the inauguration. They claimed that they wanted the people to have a say “in this momentous decision.” Of course, the people spoke–and they wanted Hillary Clinton! but that doesn’t matter either.

Now Democrats are faced with a test. The right wing Neil Gorsuch stands in Garland’s spot. As nominees go, Gorsuch is pretty much as expected. Professional qualified, smart, personable, charismatic and conservative. His appointment wouldn’t even significantly alter the composition of the court. Under normal circumstances, I would express opposition to his politics, but would certainly not argue against a hearing and a vote, which he would almost certainly win. That’s politics. Sometimes you’re the dog, sometimes you’re the fire hydrant.

But this case is different.

Frankly, I firmly believe, if Gorsuch or any other Trump nominee is allowed to take this particular seat on the Supreme Court, then the Democrats will never get to place a justice on the Supreme Court again…period.

Anyone who thinks that the contemporary Republican Party would not stonewall a Democratic SCOTUS nominee for every minute of four years in order to preserve or promote a conservative court is just not paying attention. The Republicans will use any cynical excuse available to justify doing just that.

So my objection here has nothing to do with Gorsuch. Frankly, unless Trump nominated Merrick Garland (and I’m not a Garland fan), none of his nominations should be considered for that particular seat. He could nominate St. Peter. Democrats should still stonewall until a Democrat is allowed to make the nomination.

Perhaps Trump can ask Obama to step out from under his beach umbrella and make another public nomination. I don’t care. But Democrats cannot allow a Trump nominee to fill that seat. Republicans cannot be allowed to win this particular political gambit.

Now when another seat opens up, fine. Go through the process. Conduct hearings. Hold a vote. I don’t want Democrats to embrace Republican cynicism. But they have to be strategic. Allowing the Trump/McConnell/Ryan Junta to fill Scalia’s seat is a really bad precedent.

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