Keep politics out of the courts? Impossible
There are three vital functions in our American government that do not lend themselves to regulation or control through the democratic process. These include the military defense establishment, the Federal Reserve System and the Justice Department; and the courts.
But today the Supreme Court, one of the last bastions of checks and balances that has traditionally towered over the fray in American politics, is fast becoming just another element of fickle majority rule or plain old populism. But some say it has always been that way; and maybe it has. For very valid reasons Americans have never fully trusted their government – federal, state or local. Today a two-toone majority of Americans feel that politics played too great a role in the recent Supreme Court decision declaring Obamacare constitutional. Often in cases of this nature the court has been accused of “thwarting the stated will of the people” or of “legislating from the bench.” This longstanding controversy began early in the first Washington administration and continues essentially unbroken today. There have always been legitimate arguments as to the legal aspects versus the political and policy merits of a law in question.
In the 2000 Bush v Gore presidential election decision the court acted in a brazenly partisan and political manner by abruptly ordering the Florida vote recount halted and arbitrarily awarding the presidency to George W. Bush. Through the past century the court has lost more and more of its public respect, confidence and credibility; from a 56% public approval in the 1900s to 37% today, according to recent polls. In many respects the court has gravitated to the role of “just another political body.”
A prime recent example is Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell’s adamant refusal to give constitutionally-mandated consideration to President Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy for almost a year before the 2016 presidential election. He wouldn’t even allow discussions or hearings on the matter. The Republicans’ stated excuse for their refusal was that they wanted to wait for the upcoming presidential election and to “let the people speak” concerning the new nominee.
Horsefeathers! This is the same bunch of hypocrites that pulled out all the stops to get Brett Kavanaugh approved before the November elections (let the people speak?) after which his approval might not have been so automatic. The GOP “is fine,” or so they stated, with confirming a Supreme Court justice in a midterm election year simply because “it’s different from a presidential election year.” But they didn’t say how it was different; only that comparing midterm elections to presidential year elections is “like comparing apples to oranges.” The Republicans need to explain that one with more logic and less simile and metaphor. These explain but don’t prove anything.
The Republicans aren’t fooling anyone, though. In all their partisan rhetoric they refuse to discuss the real problem: that they face a possibly shrinking Republican congressional majority in November. This may have been their one and final chance to confirm a conservative justice and secure a Supreme Court majority for a generation or more. This may have been their chance of the century.
Just two short years ago Mitch Mcconnell contended that since 2016 was such a highly-charged election year the Senate should wait until the new president was seated before even considering a Supreme court nominee. He then added, “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let the American people decide.” My, what a difference two years make!
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.