By David Hirzel
Pardon me for thinking it a bit ghoulish that the immediate Republican response to the announcement of Justice Ginsburg’s demise, was first to lay out their plan for naming her successor in the few months remaining in the Trump presidency.
That plan being, to do everything possible to prevent any president of the opposite party from installing a Supreme Court Justice whose political leanings would be at a variance with the already overwhelming power of big oil and big finance over the conduct of government. The will and benefit of the people is, apparently, no longer relevant—certainly not in the worldview of a Republican party that has abandoned its role as guardian of conservative policy and morphed into the Party of Trump.
They shamelessly stalled even allowing a hearing on President Obama’s nominee—Merrick Garland—for 293 days, waiting out the results of the 2016 election, gambling that the election would put their candidate—Mr. Trump—in the White House. “The American people are about to weigh in on who is going to be the president. And that’s the person, whoever that may be, who ought to be making this appointment” said Senate Majority Leader McConnell in February 2016. “The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making in November the decision they’ve already started making today.”
Here is what McConnell says now, when there is a good chance that the next president will be a Democrat: “As of today there are 43 days before Nov. 3 and 104 days before the end of this Congress. The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination.” No shortage of hypocrisy here.
He means any nomination, that as of today it doesn’t really matter who is going to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg. It only matters that Trump be the one who names the justice—whoever it may be, and whatever qualifications they may have—so that the Republican-dominated Senate can ramrod the process through before another president comes into power. Their desperation is palpable.
It is also destructive to the principles that the rest of us believe arise from the Constitution. Many of the names on his shortlist have not served long enough to develop substantial records on the bench. One was panned by the American Bar Association as unqualified for the federal bench. One believes that “a legal career is but a means to an end. . . and that end is building the kingdom of God.” The one thing they all have in common is an ardent desire to move the law to the right.
Given the dysfunction in the legislature in recent years, judges have become the most consequential policymakers—gutting campaign finance law, dismantling the Voting Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act piece by piece, and making it clear that courts have no business remedying historical discrimination.
These are important matters, matters to be determined by impartial jurists, not by a Trump-appointed ideologue rushed into position by a Senate desperate to confirm the rights of business, wealth and power over the rights of people and citizens.
People and citizens who are ready and willing to reclaim them.
(David Hirzel is a Bay Area author and frequent op-ed contributor to this newspaper. Anyone interested in writing a My Turn essay may contact editor Sherm Frederick at firstname.lastname@example.org.)