And now, after months of one of the strangest political campaigns ever, we are at the heart of the matter: SCOTUS!
Millions of Americans who haven’t thought about the Supreme Court of the United States for weeks are now telling each other that if there is a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court, the last lower court ruling stands. At least until there is a full nine-member Supreme Court. Who woulda thunk we’d all know that?
But civics lessons aside, what is unfolding in our nation’s capital is one of the scariest moments in recent memory. A full-blown constitutional crisis is a possibility, and nobody knows how it might end.
If you care at all, either way, about restricting the right to choose to have an abortion, the right to place restrictions on gun sales, new restrictions on who may vote, new rules on who may be deported and when, no limits on individual and corporate financing of politicians seeking office, working to stop permanent climate change, the scope of racism, and a whole host of individual liberties, you must care whether the Supreme Court has its full complement of justices.
Without a full court pressing solutions on contentious issues, lower courts will rule on all sides of the issues and nothing will be settled. Each state will go its own way.
If Republicans refuse to let a justice be confirmed this year, what is to stop Democrats from blocking any confirmation next year if the White House goes Republican?
In some states, women will be able to get abortions. In others, they will not. In some states, voting will be a civic duty for all qualified citizens; other states will make voting difficult for minorities. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
The courts will be the new wild, wild West as more lower court judicial vacancies go unfilled.
Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or somebody who can’t stand any politicians, the system will not function if the president’s duty under the Constitution to nominate a Supreme Court justice is stymied by a politicized Senate refusing to carry out its duty to vote that nominee up or down.
It seems nearly everyone in America has weighed in on the issue of replacing Antonin Scalia on the nation’s highest court, the ultimate court that decides what is constitutional and what is not. Good. Everyone should be mulling this over.
It is understandable that we don’t all see eye to eye on vital issues. But we have to trust that the system ultimately works. That system makes nine men and women sort through the facts, discuss the principles at stake and apply the Constitution to decide what is lawful.
There have been dreadful Supreme Court decisions. But eventually, other justices righted those wrongs. Unfortunately, justice sometimes takes a long time. But, overall, our system has worked. If the court is totally politicized, it will not.
It is interesting that some Republicans who claim to love the Constitution think a presidential term is three years, not four, and that a president who was elected with 5 million more votes than his rival in the last election should be blocked from doing his job.
In an election season where we are confronted with a major candidate who has thousands of supporters who wish the South had won the Civil War and think gays should not be permitted to enter the country, the fate of one nominee for the Supreme Court may seem peripheral.
But if we throw away the rule of law, ignoring the Constitution that has inspired billions around the globe for well over 200 years, not much else will matter.