Tomorrow, Judge Neil Gorsuch will become a justice on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. For him, and for the Republicans, his appointment will be a victory, a time for celebration. But for many, his appointment, and the process which will have gotten him there, feels like one more notch in the dismantling of our democratic republic.
Sen. Mitch McConnell invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” which means that judicial nominees can be declared victorious by a simple majority instead of needing to have 60 votes. That rule was put in place to prevent or at least lessen, partisanship in the appointment of these most important public servants.
Judge Gorsuch, a staunch Conservative supported by what some call “dirty money” seems a nice enough person, but his judicial record caused some Democrats deep concern. Justices – judges – are supposed to be impartial, though history has shown that not to be the case, but there was something sacrosanct in residing in the myth of judicial objectivity. With that myth in place, there was always the hope that justice for “the least of these” would and could be attained.
The Democrats were determined that Gorsuch would not be the next Supreme Court justice. They were justifiably angry that Sen. McConnell would not even let President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, have a hearing. That seemed mean-spirited; it seemed anti-constitutional; it seemed deeply partisan and yes, it seemed racist.
All of the persons in this administration seem friendly enough – but not to democracy as it has been practiced.
But their anger was not enough to stop this train from its careening downhill. There seems to be a bitter, lingering spirit of resentment over the Obama presidency and all it stood for, accompanied by a determination to undo everything that Obama did. This nomination and the coming confirmation of Gorsuch feels like it is a part of that pot of boiling, seething resentment.
Sen. Harry Reid invoked this “nuclear option” in 2013. Exasperated by what he felt was unreasonable obstruction by Republicans of every appointment or nominee Obama put forth, he changed the parliamentary rules for the confirmation of judges. There is always wrangling – or there had been wrangling – between Congress and their respective presidents for decades, but Reid felt the wrangling during the Obama administration went over the top. He changed the rules, something that Obama said he felt would have dire consequences for the country. “It’s not what our founders intended,” he said.
By now, we have all heard of some of the decisions made by Gorsuch in his work as a judge. They are not encouraging. He seems to be hand-in-glove with corporations and big money. That just does not feel good.
But neither do many of the members of this administration’s cabinet. We have an Attorney General who apparently lied to the committee during his confirmation hearings, a man who has a history of being against immigration, who has a fear of Muslim immigrants, and who recently strongly encouraged American cities to forego the idea of being sanctuary cities or face losing federal funds.
Sessions has not been a friend to those who fight racial oppression. Supporters of Sessions say he is a “good man,” and he probably is in the eyes of those who are not black, brown, Muslim, or LGBTQ. He has not supported the fight against voter suppression. He is not a fan of affirmative action, and he thinks the complaints by blacks against police departments are overblown.
The three branches of government, controlled by the GOP, are failing in their function laid out by the Constitution.
We could go on; all of the persons in this administration seem friendly enough – but not to democracy as it has been practiced. The people in the administration are wealthy and largely disconnected to the masses of American people. The disregard for the lives and well-being of Americans as the GOP has sought to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, has been disheartening.
We grew up believing in the Bible and in the Constitution. The Bible taught us that we should love each other and take care of each other. The Constitution taught us that a democracy was one where the people mattered. But as the governing body becomes smaller and smaller, and more and more wealthy, the ideals of the Founding Fathers, and the tenets of the Bible seem to be slipping into obscurity.
Timothy Snyder wrote in his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, that the Founding Fathers constructed the American democratic republic with the express purpose of preventing tyranny from ever developing here. The three branches of government, with the promise of them providing checks and balances so that no one branch had complete control and power, was called brilliant. But the three branches of government, controlled by the GOP, are failing in their function laid out by the Constitution. Snyder writes, “the good news is that we can draw upon more recent relevant examples than ancient Greece and Rome” when studying political order. “The bad news,” he writes, “is that the history of modern democracy is also one of decline and fall.”
It feels like our beloved country is falling, and the lessons of the Bible are being all but forgotten. The coldness this Congress has for the poor is mind-boggling; it is hard to believe that anyone would believe that the “poor don’t want health care and won’t take care of themselves.”
No government is perfect; the fight for justice and equality for the masses has always been a reality. But this was our country, with a government we held to be above all others.
It no longer feels that way. It feels like our government is in hospice. It feels like we are about to have to recite… a requiem for our beloved democracy.