When I heard that Justice Scalia had died, I–like many of you–was like, “Whoa.” Appointing a Supreme Court nominee is a big deal. It’s a lifetime appointment. A lot of the issues that divide our nation right now are decided by these nine people who sit on the highest court in the land and interpret the laws of our nation. And one person’s vote can make a big difference in policy–Both the decision granting LGBT folks marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges) AND the decision effectively giving unlimited influence to financial donors in our political process (Citizens United v. FEC) were decided by one vote. And Antonin Scalia was probably the most conservative member of the court. So yeah… It’s a big deal. And the response to the news of Justice Scalia’s death ranged from liberals very disrespectfully running around like Wizard of Oz munchkins singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” all the way to genuine conservative dread… which led to the GOP establishment immediately declaring they would be committed to obstructing the constitutional process of replacing a deceased Supreme Court Justice. Here are some reasons why the republican refusal to consider a replacement for Justice Scalia puts their hypocrisy on full display:
1 – MITCH McCONNELL’S OWN WORDS
When Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell responded to news of Scalia’s passing, he called for waiting until after the upcoming election, releasing a statement that said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” But as Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did–when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.” Sen. McConnell appealed to an “unwritten rule” called the “Thurmond Rule” where Strom Thurmond thought presidents shouldn’t appoint justices in an election year. But there are few people more qualified to refute a policy like this than Senator Mitch McConnell himself… From a mere eight years ago at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. Here’s the video:
2 – THE WORDS OF PATRON SAINT, RONALD REAGAN
This “Thurmond Rule” was also not in place at the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Below, we see a video from his last State of the Union address, where he asked that Justice Kennedy’s nomination be approved without delay…
In case you didn’t notice, that clip is from January 25, 1988… At the end of Ronald Reagan’s “lame duck” second term, in an election year, and roughly two weeks earlier (in his term, relatively) than the point in President Obama’s term when the GOP leadership declared that he shouldn’t be allowed to appoint a replacement for Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. In addition, Reagan also said, “The Federal judiciary is too important to be made a political football. I would hope, and the American people should expect, not only for Judge Kennedy’s confirmation but for the Senate to get to work and act on 27 other judicial nominations that have been left in limbo for quite awhile now.” But then again, today’s GOP would be unrecognizable to the republican party of 1988, and Ronald Reagan would probably be booed off the stage as a liberal in one of today’s republican debates.
3 – “LOVE OF THE CONSTITUTION”
One of the things conservatives loved about Antonin Scalia is his strict insistence that the Constitution should be read and interpreted by looking at its meaning at the time it was originally written (known as “originalism”). But the Constitution is actually very clear on the President’s powers in this circumstance… Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says that the President shall have the power to “nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate… Judges of the supreme Court.” This power is not taken away from the President just because a justice dies in an election year. In fact, there have been many times this has taken place. Unless they think that Obama is only entitled to three fifths of a term…
I would hope not, but in this political climate, you never know… One thing’s for sure: Claiming to “love the Constitution,” but ignoring it when its words are politically disadvantageous is just about the definition of political hypocrisy.
4 – BELIEF THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL
I believe this is at the heart of Christian Conservatives’ hypocrisy right now–This professed belief in God’s sovereignty, but the denial of that belief when God’s “chosen leaders” make decisions with which you disagree. If you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God, then you must admit that the Bible says over and over that God chooses a nation’s leaders. Romans 13 says that there is “no authority except that which God has established.” That seems pretty clear. And if you REALLY believe that God is in control of everything, then technically, God killed Justice Scalia while Obama was still in office.* And who are we to argue with the almighty, right? (*I don’t believe this is how things work, by the way)
So which would you like to give up–God’s sovereignty and the Bible’s inerrancy? Or this idea that Obama isn’t God’s chosen leader for this country (a leader to whom you are commanded to be subject)? Because you can’t have it both ways… Unless, of course, you want to be viewed as a hypocrite.
And that’s really the scariest part of this whole thing–The fact that these guys KNOW they are being hypocrites. They are smart enough to understand that… I’m nearly convinced. But the scary part is that THEY DON’T CARE. They are being intentionally hypocritical, and they have such a low view of the American voting public that they can knowingly talk out of both sides of their faces without fearing that the electorate is going to hold them accountable. These people KEEP GETTING RE-ELECTED! Because their campaigns are paid for with billions of dollars from powerful donors… Because it’s legal to do that… Because of a Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United… Because of the vote of Justice Kennedy… Who was appointed in the last year of Reagan’s presidency. Crazy.
Which is why this coming election is SO VERY IMPORTANT! Please help me continue to work toward a more informed electorate. And please help me expose the hypocrisy of our elected leaders, so that we can get some people representing us who have some integrity.
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