Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scalia's Death & Republican's Contempt for Obama's Authority

Justice Antonin Scalia 1936 - 2016
If the ideological engine that drives American politics was already revved up with the pending changes of the 2016 presidential elections, the unexpected passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia yesterday at the remote Cibolo Creek Ranch in the Chinati Mountains in Texas just pushed it into overdrive.

As someone who graduated from Penn State with a degree in Political Science with an emphasis on Constitutional Law, I can certainly appreciate Scalia's contributions to the Court.

My former professor and informal advisor at Penn State, Dr. Bruce Allen Murphy, wrote an Op-Ed published in The New York Times earlier today that offers perspective and insight into Scalia's legacy on the bench.

Given my centrist-progressive leanings I don't agree with all of his opinions but I respect them.

By the same measure we can't forget the sometimes bizarre, hyper-conservative ideology that Scalia, a long-time opponent of affirmative action, brought to his legal opinions either - he frequently courted controversy over the course of his 30 years as a SCOTUS justice.

When for example, as John Amato observed in an article posted on, in his comments during oral arguments last January during a case dealing with affirmative actions in college admissions, Scalia suggested that "most of the black scientists in this country do not come from the most advanced schools." and that subsequently a "slower track" is more beneficial to them.

During the same oral arguments, Scalia went on to dismiss the intellectual capacity of black American students admitted into colleges under affirmative action guidelines when he fretted that, "They're being pushed into schools that are too advanced for them."

Affirmative action - do as I say, not as I did
It is of interest to note that if Scalia had his way, his fellow conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas might not have been sitting near Scalia on the same bench nodding in agreement when Scalia said those words last year.

Thomas, a gifted student, was admitted to Yale University with the help of financial assistance based on an affirmative action policy designed to attract qualified minority students to the prestigious Yale Law School.

Yet he joined Scalia in vehement opposition to the value and merit of affirmative action policies - how typically conservative.

It's like watching Republican firebrands like Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents all immigrated to this country, pontificate against the evils of immigration to exploit the xenophobia that lights the fire of so many conservative voters.

Voters who seem to have conveniently forgotten that every single American who's not Native American is an immigrant.

In the latest example of the vicious undisguised contempt the Republican party harbors for President Obama, G.O.P Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell skipped right over any sentimental condolences for the passing of the 79-year-old conservative legal icon and promptly announced that the president should not fulfill his Constitutionally-mandated task and appoint a new Supreme Court justice, and instead, should wait until January and let the newly elected President make the appointment.

Obama and McConnell - ready to face off?
The President, who was out in California for some private Democratic fund raisers and a couple rounds of golf in Rancho Mirage when Scalia's death was announced yesterday, wasted no time in paying tribute to Scalia's career before announcing that he fully intended to move forward with the lengthy, complex and politically-charged process of appointing a new justice.

Setting up what is sure to be a titanic election-year confrontation between the White House and an obstructionist majority Republican Senate that's spent the past two years blocking any presidential initiatives since it regained the 54-44  majority in the 2014 elections.  

As Elizabeth Williamson observed in the editorial blog of The New York Times this morning, the six remaining Republican presidential candidates used the opening minutes of last night's G.O.P to echo McConnell's wish that the president allow the SCOTUS appointment to pass to the next President.

When Donald Trump was asked if he would fill the appointment if he was in Obama's shoes, he responded that "If I were President I would certainly try to nominate a justice." before insisting that Senator McConnell and the Republican Senate should do everything to "delay, delay, delay" President Obama's doing the exact same thing - again, how typically conservative.

Let's be frank here.

Republican bigot Rep Joe Wilson
The Republicans suggesting that President Obama does not have the right to nominate a qualified candidate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court is reflective of how some G.O.P members of Congress have openly treated him as if he's some sort of presumptuous "uppity Negro" instead of the leader of the free world.

Their unprecedented disrespect for Obama, rooted in the toxic contempt for black Americans which is now an open part of Republican party values, has been expressed in private and in public almost since the day he took office.

Remember when Republican South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson interrupted Obama's address to a joint session of Congress back in 2009 by shouting out "You lie!" in the middle of the speech like some kind of inebriated redneck?

The Republican's aggressive politicization of the newly-created (and unexpected) vacancy on the Supreme Court is just the latest example.

It stems not just from their having become accustomed to having the Robert's Court handing down decisions that pander to and promote the ideology of the political right, like undermining the foundations and principles of Democracy by gutting key provisions of the Voter Rights Act, or allowing unlimited anonymous campaign contributions to flow into the coffers of political candidates.

To me, the Republican Senate's move to try and seize control of the Supreme Court nomination process  is also clear example of how institutional racism remains entrenched in America with the cooperation of some of those elected to govern on behalf of the people.

Journalist - writer Ta-Nehisi Coates 
In recent years writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, who penned a searing indictment of 250 years of systematic racism in America for The Atlantic in June of 2014, "The Case For Reparations", and Michelle Alexander, a nationally-recognized civil rights attorney, activist and prisoner rights advocate who authored the groundbreaking "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness" in 2010, have used a combination of facts and eloquent words to illustrate how deeply embedded racism is in this nation.

The announcement yesterday by Republicans of their intent to circumvent the Constitutionally-mandated authority of the President to appoint a Supreme Court Justice reflects their willingness use the skin color of the President to expand the reach and influence of what has been an activist hyper-conservative court unafraid to use legal decisions to promote a conservative ideology.

The power to nominate justices of the Supreme Court is expressly granted to the President by Article II of the Constitution which states (in part):

"he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint...Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law..."

That's the law.

Regardless of the personal views certain members of the U.S. Senate hold of the President's race.

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