This is a first.
For all of our lives, we who hate winter have celebrated the coming of baseball, daffodils and dogwood with enthusiasm and optimism. Gone is the bitter cold, the snow and ice storms. For a few months at least, we can dress more comfortably and enjoy mild temperatures and outdoor activities.
But this year, I find myself earnestly looking forward to November, when Americans finally will have a chance to return sanity to government. We will get to vote; that is, unless the Supreme Court finds a way to prevent us from doing that. While a shocked nation watched, they did a number on Wisconsin this week.
I’m no alarmist, but a Supreme Court this politically partisan should scare us. If it doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine what would.
For most of my eight decades, we Americans knew that we could trust this court of last resort to deliver wise decisions by rising above the clamor of partisan politics. Reliable. Wise. Not favoring one political part or philosophy. We trusted this.
Then came the Bush-Gore election in 2000, when five justices handed the presidency to George W. Bush. Not millions of voters, not even Electoral College delegates. Five justices: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. That’s a lot of power in so few hands. With that decision, America’s confidence in the sanctity of the Supreme Court’s nonpartisan wisdom was shattered, perhaps never to be restored.
Today’s Supreme Court consists of Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justices Samuel J. Alito Jr., Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil M. Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. How did these particular people get to serve on the highest court in the land? President George W. Bush nominated Roberts and Alito, President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas, President Bill Clinton nominated Breyer and Ginsburg. Barack Obama nominated Kagan and Sotomayor, and President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
U.S. Presidents salivate when they realize that they get to nominate someone to this court. These justices serve for life or until they chose to retire. Imagine the power in the hands of a president when a vacancy occurs. Political conservatives hope that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire or die while Trump is still in power. Liberals are praying for Ginsburg’s good health and a new president who’s a Democrat.
In Trump’s three years in office, his partisans have loaded as many like-minded Republican judges as possible onto important federal court benches. That’s why we hear Trump arguing for letting the courts decide our most important issues. They are his courts, all the way to the top.
He is confident that they will rule in his favor. Is this how we believe that our democracy should work? I don’t think so. Come November, we get to send that message. I dearly love spring, but this year, I’m longing for November.