Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scalia is Dead

The Republicans lose their biggest ideologue, casting a cloud over the election cycle.  Republican candidates were quick to politicize the Supreme Court justice's death by demanding that the Senate not give into any of Obama's "liberal appointees," while the President struck a more conciliatory and somber tone, saying he will nominate a successor.  It is doubtful that the Senate will agree on a nominee but stranger things have happened.

I guess you could call it a pre-emptive strike on the part of the Republicans, who were quick to evoke the Thurmond Rule.  The only problem is that Uncle Strom's unwritten rule only applies in the last 6 months of a President's term, which as John Oliver noted, doesn't begin until July 20.  It seems the GOP panicked when they heard the news, oh boy!

It is hard to feel too much sympathy for Scalia, who has often struck an inflammatory tone on his decisions, but apparently he was a real pussy cat outside the Supreme Court chamber, not to mention a Bob Dylan fan.  For a man who believed ardently in the original intent of the Constitution, his decisions were riddled with contradictions, which I imagine Judge Ruth pointed out.

It wasn't so much the Constitution he upheld, but rather a right wing interpretation of the Constitution that was often at odds with its original intent that he so much extolled.  His decision on Citizens United being the most blatant example.  It is highly doubtful the founding fathers ever imagined corporations having an outsized influence on politics, as they do today.

Scalia, like SC Justices Thomas and Alito, was driven by purely ideological causes.  There wasn't an ounce of objectivism in his opinions. He was clever enough to find legal precedents for his decisions the same way a good lawyer finds some way to get his defendant acquitted of all charges.  He was only interested in the "original intent" of the Constitution so long as it served the purposes of the political right wing.

Rubio's comment is quite telling, as he sees the Constitution as a dead letter, not a "living and breathing document" or subject to the "latest fads."  There are several things wrong with his statement during the GOP debate.  Most glaringly, the Constitution has been amended 17 times since it was first penned, including civil rights amendments that gave minorities a say in government, otherwise we would have never seen an Italian judge or Hispanic senator.  In fact, it took the 13th amendment effectively nullify the 3/5's clause that only allowed slaves and other non-voting persons to be counted as 60 per cent of the electorate, and further nullify poll taxes and other means of disenfranchising minority voting.

Another glaring error was his statement that no "lame duck" president has appointed a Supreme Court Justice in the last 80 years.  We only have to go back 28 years to when Ronald Reagan appointed Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court, and was confirmed in February, 1988.   But, this is the kind of duplicity we have come to expect from the Republican party.  For the record, a "lame duck" president is any president in the last two years of a two-term presidency.

Antonin Scalia will be remembered for his very narrow-minded decisions that served no other purpose than to uphold a right wing political agenda, which has been in place ever since Reagan and Bush stacked the Supreme Court deck with conservative judges.   Scalia was a Reagan appointee, who had resided on the Supreme Court for 30 years.  He has been the most adamant in defending right wing causes, offering scathing dissents when a decision didn't go his way, and gaining huge favor among right wing ideologues.

For the first time in three decades, there is the opportunity to have a less ideologically-driven Supreme Court.  Of course, the Republican Senate will fight any Obama appointee, especially one they deem as being liberal, so the President will have to make a very prudent choice if he expects his appointee to be confirmed.  However, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has further politicized the issue by saying the next president should appoint Scalia's successor, despite it being the Consitutional duty of the current President to present a nominee in Scalia's place.

One could argue that just about anyone would be better than Scalia.  Other conservative nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy have shown more neutrality on key issues like the Affordable Care Act and immigration.  Alito and Thomas are both ideologues, but tended to take a back seat to Scalia.   Now that he is gone, they will step forward, but they will not exercise the same influence on the bench that Scalia had.

Sri Srinvasin being confirmed by Sanda Day O'Connor

Many are guessing that Sri Srinivasin is the Supreme Court Justice in waiting,  He won a unanimous show of support from the Senate when nominated as Judge for the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2013.  Jeffrey Tobin tagged him nearly three years ago for the top bench.  He is the type of moderate who in any other year would probably sail through confirmation hearings, but this is a wild and wacky year.

For Republicans, the death of Scalia is a huge blow and will no doubt ramp up efforts to push for a Presidential nominee who will win the general election.  They see their tenuous grasp on the Supreme Court slipping away, a court they have dominated for 30 years, essentially giving them the last word on any legislative issue.  For them, Scalia will be sorely missed.

However, for the rest of us it feels like the dawning of a new day.

1 comment:

  1. It took only 19 days to get Stevens into the Supreme Court so there is plenty of time for Obama to get his nominee affirmed. I suggest Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar who has friends on both side of the aisle in the Senate and is well qualified.