A few comments today from me around the debate about replacing Justice Ginsburg. The process isn’t making either party look particularly wonderful, in my opinion. With the Garland nomination a little more than four years ago, it’s easy to find hypocritical statements from both sides. If the politicians really believed what they said they believed four years ago, then the Democrats would be pushing hard to make Trump nominate someone, and the Republicans would be clamoring for the process to happen after the election is over.
But of course that would never happen, because the reasons each side gave for why they were for or against the Garland nomination were just words they used to justify what they wanted to do. (As a side note, studies have shown that having any sort of an excuse for doing what you’re doing is often enough to convince people to let you do it. For example, people generally let you cut in line to make copies if you have fewer copies to make than they’re making, as long as you give some sort of reason. Bigger “favors” require more justification, but in the case of Supreme Court nominations, all the politicians are really doing is what they (and most of their supporters) want them to do anyway.)
And both sides have come up with reasons for why they’ve changed their mind about when Supreme Court nominees should or shouldn’t be considered. The Democrats say the Republicans set the precedent when they did it 4 years ago. The Republicans say all sorts of things, like “the precedent is that the Senate only votes on nominees from their own side in these cases.”
But really, what in the world did people expect would happen? Imagine a game 7 of a series between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Something happens that would make it so the Yankees win on a technicality, and the Red Sox say something to the effect of “If you were really a good baseball team, you’d win the right way, not on this technicality.” Are the Yankees really going to back off and say, “You’re right. Even though we won according to how the rules are written, we’re not going to choose to actually win right now. We’ll wait and try to do it the “real” way.” (Which of course brings up the question of what the “real” way is, if it’s not just using the rules of the game as written.)
In the case of Ginsburg’s replacement, both Democrats and Republicans aren’t there to play nice. They’re there to do what their parties want them to do. Being shocked and appalled that they actually do it is maybe a bit naïve. Trump doesn’t stop being President while we wait for the election to run, and he’ll still be President until January, no matter what. The current Senate doesn’t stop just because a new one will come in.
That said, the Republicans have been showing up to these political faceoffs packing heat, and the Democrats have been pretty much only been bringing their bare knuckles. I’m very concerned that the way this is playing out is only going to exacerbate the problem. Should the Democrats find themselves in a position where they control the House and the Senate and the Presidency, with all of Trump and the Republicans’ shenanigans in recent memory, does anyone really think they’re not going to turn around and start doing whatever they feel like doing? Eliminating the filibuster, adding seats to the Supreme Court, or who knows what else?
If and when that happens, I’m 100% sure the Republicans will holler and scream about how “unjust” it is, and how the Democrats really should follow the spirit of the law, rather than the letter. I wish this wasn’t happening over something as straightforward as a Supreme Court seat. When you look at the conservative/liberal leanings of the justices over the years, you’ll see they aren’t constant. They change. Ginsburg started off as pretty much neutral and ended up fairly liberal, for example. The media would have you think each justice swears an oath when they’re put in that they will always do their best to stay true to the political leanings of whomever appointed them. That’s just not reality.
My personal preference would be that the courts remain pretty balanced, with a variety of viewpoints on there to even things out. So I’m much more worried that this current process will end up breaking the system than I am about which particular judge ends up in the final seat.
I admire Justice Ginsburg for what she did and the example she set. I’m sorry she passed away, not just because she was an asset to the court and the country, but because the particular timing of it has created yet another thing to fight about. But as soon as it happened, I assumed the Republicans would push forward with it, and any Democrat who’s swearing that they wouldn’t do the exact same thing in the same circumstance would also no doubt have a bridge to sell you right after you believed them.
Maybe I’m just getting jaded . . .
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