Replacing Scalia

Antonin Scalia is gone and with him – for now — the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court. The pity is that we pivot to this fact right after a dutiful declaration of loss and a mechanical ticking off of stellar skills and flawless accomplishments, as did the Republican candidates for president.

At the South Carolina debate, Trump was most truthful, saying that if he were president, he would nominate a replacement, himself, but that Obama’s nominee should be delayed by the Senate: “delay, delay” any hearings. Cruz described knowing Scalia for twenty years, and “a brilliant man.” Any nomination made by Obama would be unpatriotic, he suggested. All candidates agree, and declared Senate efforts to block any nomination essential.

I must admit that praise has always been foreign to my lips in describing Scalia, more like adjectives of biased, stubborn and close-minded. If I had had close ties with him and his family – a wife, 9 children and 36 grandchildren — I know I would feel more than just aversion to his actions.

I’m sure he loved and revered his family, a fondness that didn’t seem to extend to average Americans who were affected by his constrictive decisions on the Supreme Court, decisions that narrowed the passage of democracy’s life blood, much like right-wing plaque. But his ideology wouldn’t allow him to see these connections, though they are real.

Neither side has taken time to really mourn a man’s passing and dwell on his human side. I think we can all concede that his was a colorful personality and that he was passionate about his views. I can’t help but believe that his judicial objectivity was stifled by too many decades of exposure to right-wing doctrine, views that have whipped away too much humanity.

I also know that people on the other side of the cultural chasm that conservatism has created believe the opposite. Such division has been so embedded in American culture – and to some extent global culture – that we continue having this civil-war-like division.

Already we have President Obama determined to make a prompt appointment to the Supreme Court seat that Scalia left vacant, and we have Republicans, like moralists, claiming democracy requires that Obama wait until after a new president is elected.

A somewhat common image of Mitch McConnell in media scripts depicts a tight-lipped caricature, a facial mimic of closing off, in this case, hope for any Senate consideration of an Obama appointment to the Supreme Court. Voters had an opportunity to keep a Senate Democrat majority last election but Democrats stumbled, Republicans demagogued, and voters stayed away from the polls, giving us a GOP majority in the Senate and more certain obstruction, thus assuring a continuation of stymied Senate progress and continued demagoguery.

What I do know for certain, and even conservatives will privately admit to it, is that because of decisions made by Scalia and four other justices, our country is less democratic and even our planet is imperiled, due to SCOTUS‘s blocking of Obama’s regulation of emissions from coal-fired power plants a few days ago. Billionaires like the Koch brothers have much greater control over our elections. Corporate thinking controls almost every decision, effecting a deteriorating environment, keeping citizens from suing corporations for grievous harm, restricting the power of unions to organize against corporate power, allowing states to disenfranchise voters, and even restricting the health care millions of Americans should enjoy.

The writing is in his record. McConnell will delay voting on any Obama appointment to the Supreme Court. We have fresh and continuing evidence that McConnell and his fellow Republicans care nothing about the common good.

Most Republicans insulted their president by signing a letter to Iranian leaders saying that Obama’s word means nothing concerning the nuclear peace agreement that the Obama administration struck. In both terms of his presidency, for political reasons, important appointments made by Obama before the Senate have languished in spite of functional needs. The latest was his appointment of a financial expert to block the flow of money to terrorists. And recently, after terrorists killed 14 in San Bernardino, Republicans blocked a bill restricting the buying of weapons by those on the terrorist no-fly list.

It is almost certain that important Supreme Court decisions, affecting us and our livelihood will be delayed until well after the next president takes office in January. We continue to have the power to stop this assault against democracy and ultimately against our planet.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.