The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has conjured up a firestorm of political posturing. I don’t even think his body had hit room temperature before Republicans were spouting off that Obama should not nominate a replacement for that seat because of the election year. From sitting Senators to candidates for the White House, I’ve seen and read countless quotes backing that idea. In my honest opinion, that position is preposterous, and it shows how much politics can ruin or poison anything that it touches.
The Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics and partisan bickering. The integrity of the court relies on that perception, and some politicians are doing everything they can to drag the reputation of the court to sub-zero levels.
With Republicans and their supporters seemingly eager to take on this election year fight, I see a few different outcomes possible with most stacked against the GOP.
#1: Republicans win the White House and retain control of the Senate
With this outcome, the gamble pays off. For this to happen, however, the GOP has to have a better get-out-the-vote campaign than the Democratic Party. As we’ve seen in past presidential year elections, that has not been the norm. The Republican candidate would have to win every red state as well as flip a few purple or blue states to get to 270 electoral votes. In addition, the GOP has to defend twice as many seats in the Senate with at least 9 seats in battleground states. They will have to retain those seats while also trying to continue to impede the current president from doing his duties as POTUS.
#2: Democrats win the White House and Republicans retain control of the Senate
In this outcome, there’s nothing gained and likely some ground lost. The battle will still remain as to who is nominated by the new president. With a brand new Democratic president (Clinton or Sanders), there’s less likely going to be a middle-of-the-road nomination as they would get from Obama right now. That would lead to a protracted fight to see who’s going to give first. Using the “people voted mandate” thing, it’s likely that the president will eventually emerge as the victor.
#3: Democrats win the White House and win control of the Senate
In this scenario, the voters get tired of the politics and get pissed off at Republicans trying to hijack the system for political gain. Having to defend delaying a nomination hurts the Republican Senators running in battleground states. This would be a major blow to the GOP because now it’s very likely that a super, duper liberal judge gets appointed to the SCOTUS. I see this outcome as the early favorite, not because of the voters getting pissed off, but because of the built-in advantage the Dems have with the electoral college and the number of seats the Republicans have to defend in the Senate.
Regardless to what happens, I think the American citizens end up losing. We’re going to see confidence in the court eroded and confidence in Congress reduced even further (if that’s possible). This should be a time where we show the rest of the world how our government and Constitution works to ensure the continuation of government. We’re supposed to be the leaders of the free world, and we’re about to squander a golden opportunity to show true leadership.
The president is tasked by the Constitution to appoint replacements when there is a vacancy. There is no asterisk stating that responsibility is muted because of what year it is in his term. Obama will be the president until January 20, 2017. If we allow the vacancy to remain until the next president is sworn in, we go two SCOTUS sessions with only 8 justices. That would be an abdication of Constitutional duties by both, the president and the Senate. Why anyone, especially the members of the party that is supposed to be all about the Constitution, would purposefully sabotage the workings of the Constitution is beyond me. This is just another example of why I loathe politicians. They have a way of screwing up anything they get involved with, and this is no exception to that.