The sudden death of Antonin Scalia has rocked the country, especially politically – and especially considering it’s President Obama’s last year in office. While Republicans will try to make Obama’s “lame duck year” the reason why they’re going to try to delay replacing Scalia until after the general election, that’s complete and total nonsense.
Maybe Republicans might have more of an argument if Justice Anthony Kennedy hadn’t assumed his position on the bench during Ronald Reagan’s last year, February 18, 1988 – but he did. Not only did Kennedy become a justice during Reagan’s “lame duck” year, but current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supported the nomination. Yes, the very same Mitch McConnell who, almost immediately after the death of Scalia was announced, said we should put off replacing him for over 300 days, until President Obama leaves office.
Now I know what some Republicans are already saying: But Reagan didn’t nominate him in his last year, it was in 1987 – not 1988!
Seriously? Are we going to argue about a matter of six weeks? So, if Scalia had died on December 31, 2015, Republicans wouldn’t be pulling this same b.s?
Everyone with even the slightest bit of common sense knows that this is about nothing more than partisan politics. Republicans want to delay replacing Scalia, not because President Obama is in his last year in office, but because they’re hoping they might be able to win the 2016 election which would leave it up to a Republican president to fill his spot on the court.
The problem for Republicans is that the Constitution clearly states that it is the duty of the president to nominate justices to the Supreme Court. In other words, what Republicans are doing is telling President Obama not to do his presidential duties that are outlined in the Constitution. That’s rich considering these are folks who’ve painted him as “unconstitutional” since before he even took his Oath of Office.
But this situation is really a no-win situation for Republicans.
I think it goes without saying that the longer Scalia’s spot goes unfilled, the more of a story this is going to become. Especially considering it would be unprecedented to go over 300 days without replacing his spot on the bench.
Not only that, but if Republicans try to play partisan politics with this nomination, it’s going to fire up Democrats and expose how petty they are to more than a few independents. While many Democrats like myself have been stressing for quite a while that the Supreme Court is a major issue for the 2016 election, we’re now about to see, firsthand, just how important this election is. Scalia was just one of four justices who might need to be replaced over the next five years. If we elect a Democrat in 2016, we could be looking at a Supreme Court that’s stacked with an overwhelming majority of justices appointed by Democrats for the next 20-30 years.
What that means is that women’s rights, gay rights, climate change, and health care reform are all safe for a very… very long time. To say nothing about protecting voting rights and getting money out of politics.
As I’ve said repeatedly, the 2016 election is extremely important. As Bernie Sanders might say, this election is “yuge.”
So, it’s really up to Republicans which way they want to go with this – and neither are good choices for their party.
They can either try to play partisan politics to delay confirming whoever President Obama nominates, making the Supreme Court the primary issue heading into the election which will almost undoubtedly lead to a massive voter turnout for Democrats – or they can approve whoever the president nominates, give him a “win” and infuriate their voters.
And the fact that so many of them came out nearly instantly following the news of Scalia’s death to state that they want to delay replacing Scalia until after President Obama leaves office has painted them into a corner. No matter what choice they make now, they’re either going to put the 2016 election at an even bigger risk for the GOP or Republicans are going to tick off just about everyone who votes for them.
Either way, this must be a wake up call for liberals, progressives and Democrats. From here on out this needs to be the rallying cry of the left. It needs to be the issue on which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters come together to say that, once the nominee is picked, we’re voting blue – no matter who.
Progressives have it within our power, right now, to protect women’s rights, health care, gay rights, voting rights and steps to combat climate change… for decades.
So, please, whether you’re on “Team Hillary” or “Team Sanders,” once one of them becomes our nominee, we all need to become members of Team Blue.