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“Strict Constructionists” and the Supreme Court Vacancy

By Sheila Kennedy on March 25, 2016 in Civic Blog
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I’ve posted previously about the absolutely stunning refusal of the Senate GOP leadership to do its job and hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat.

I know I’m being repetitive, but I can’t stop thinking about the degree to which that intransigence symbolizes an ominous breakdown of governance in this country.

It isn’t that we haven’t gone through dangerous times before. We had a civil war, and the 60s certainly weren’t all Woodstock. The Gilded Age, the Depression–we can all come up with examples from history. (Or maybe not, since so few people seem to have studied history–but the examples are there.) What I don’t remember is a similar degree of hypocrisy and flat-out lying by people in public office who are so transparently following their own immediate self-interest to the detriment of their constitutional duty and the common good.

These are the people who constantly tell us how devoted they are to the Constitution–at the same time they are refusing to follow its prescriptions. These are the people who piously invoke tradition, then lie about the history of Supreme Court appointments during election years. (Not to mention plucking and parroting a single sentence from a speech by then-Senator Biden–a speech that in its totality said something very different than their chosen sound-bite would suggest.)

These are the people who accuse the President of being “divisive” when he discharges his clear duty under the Constitution–at the same time that they are politicizing the Court by refusing to discharge theirs.

Do they think no one notices? Worse, is it possible that they’re right, and most people don’t?

In a scathing column in the Huffington Post, constitutional scholar Geoffrey Stone was blunt:

It is time for the Senate Republicans to back off and to act like responsible grownups who recognize that they have a solemn obligation to act according to the rule of law. If they don’t like that, then perhaps they should just resign their positions and let the nation get on with its business. If they move forward with their cynical and hypocritical plan, they will be guilty of a coup d’état of epic proportions.

How did we get to this point? How did these people get elected? What toxic mix of civic ignorance and apathy, political money, gerrymandering and raw racism has brought us to a place where a fascist buffoon is likely to be the Presidential candidate of a major party, and the legislative leadership of that party insists on elevating its partisan interests above the both the law and the national good?

How did a once-great party become so small, and how did the rest of us allow it to happen? And what does this unprecedented obstruction mean for the future of the American experiment?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but those are the questions that are keeping me up at night.

Sheila HeadshotSheila Suess Kennedy, J.D. is the Professor of Law and Public Policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis and former Director of the Center for Civic Literacy. She is the Executive Editor for the Journal of Civic Literacy.  This post was originally published on the blog, sheilakennedy.net and is republished here with the permission of the author.

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Whitney FieldsView all posts by Whitney Fields

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