Patriotic indignation is currently pounding on Comrade Putin for his dirty tricks befouling the US presidential election and on Citizen Trump for his indifference to the cyber scandal. But a far greater crime against American democracy is under way that’s clearly visible and scarcely noted.
The Republican Senate leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, violated the Constitution, and he has not been properly punished for his offense. He unilaterally blocked any appointment to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. McConnell announced within hours that there would be no replacement for the Supreme Court vacancy until after a new president is elected.
President Obama ignored McConnell’s illegal diktat and nominated a distinguished appellate judge, Merrick Garland, to sit on the Court. A few senators had polite conversations with Judge Garland, but the Judiciary Committee refused to hold any hearings on confirmation or even acknowledge that the president had fulfilled his duty as prescribed in the Constitution. The Senate majority leader simply refused to perform his constitutional duty in the “advise and consent” process.
McConnell wasn’t subtle about his political motive. He announced he was holding the Constitution at bay in the hope that a Republican would win the presidential election and therefore conservatives could restore their 5-4 majority. Trump’s victory fulfilled McConnell’s gamble. The country will suffer the damaging consequences of right-wing lawmaking for years to come.
Who lost? Women and minorities are likely candidates, probably also workers in general, since right-wing judges tend to favor owners and employers over labor. Progressive decisions that advanced equality years ago—even decades ago—could now be re-opened for reactionary reconsideration.
Who won? Why, corporations, of course, and their law firms and those corporate lawyers of the Federalist Society who perhaps yearn to become Supremes themselves some day.
Donald Trump talks vaguely about returning the abortion question to the state legislatures, which suggests that will be his standard for filling the vacancy. That is, only judges willing to reverse Roe v. Wade are eligible—empowering any crackpot assembly to regulate women according to whatever crackpot preachers demand.
Steve Michel, an environmental lawyer from Santa Fe, New Mexico, was disgusted with this twisted distortion of constitutional purpose. So he filed a federal lawsuit with himself as plaintiff. His civil rights were violated by McConnell’s illegal intervention, he argues, so the Supreme Court should tell the Senate to fulfill its duty.