Feeling the axis tilting leftward

Feeling the axis tilting leftward

It has been a week since the World learned the news of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  I have purposefully waited until after his his memorial service this weekend before weighing in on the implications presented by his sudden absence on the Court.  As with the death of any respected public official regardless of political stripe, I maintained decorum all week under my personal policy of speaking no ill of the deceased or as the ancient Romans used to say, De mortuis nihil nisi bonum dicendum est (Of the dead nothing but good is to be said).  Although I did not have a real appreciation for certain of the opinions Justice Scalia is most noted for at the times he handed them down, Bush v Gore and District of Columbia v Heller chief among them, I did respect his judicial authority and scholarship.  To conservatives he was their judicial lion and the anchor and chief mouthpiece of their ideological jurisprudence on the Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia

Knowing full well the implications of his passing, it did not take long for conservative heads to begin exploding when confronted with having to deal with a replacement appointed by President Obama.

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Within two hours of hearing the news of Justice Scalia’s demise, Republican staffers and Congressional GOP leaders were posting things on social media to the effect that obstruction on any Obama appointment would be the order of the day.  With President Obama having over three hundred thirty days still left in office, they have a pretty tall order before them.  After all, the Thurmond Rule was thoroughly debunked back in 2008.  According to Senator Mitch McConnell, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”  Dear Senator McConnell, the American people spoke loud and clear on Election Day 2012 when President Obama was resoundingly reelected.

SCOTUS seal

It is true what they say about elections having consequences.  The best thing the Senate can do is expeditiously confirm the first qualified SCOTUS candidate the President nominates.  The Republican base may love them for stalling, but their overall approval rating is not likely to improve.  In fact, it may do more harm than good in an election year.  To say the GOP leadership is in a difficult spot is an understatement.  The Constitution Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2.2.2 is very clear on advice and counsel of the Senate on Presidential appointments.

U.S. Constitution for Dummies

Moving forward, it goes without saying that the future complexion of the Supreme Court will be far less conservative than it was at sunset Friday, February 12th, 2016.  The replacement for Justice Scalia does not have to be a left wing liberal ideologue.  They merely have to not be an extreme conservative to alter the balance on the Court.  What made the last session so bad for conservatives is that a conservative majority court handed down decisions counter to the conservative cause on so many issues.  I remember writing about A Massive Tectonic Plate Shift early last July after the Court ruled in favor of nationwide healthcare subsidies and legalizing gay marriage among other things.  These decisions were perhaps not seen as being far to the left at the time as they were simply getting the ideological pendulum headed back toward the middle.  That proverbial middle has in fact shifted to the left in the past eight years.  The institutions that safeguarded conservative ideals like fundamentalist Christian churches and conservative advocacy groups like the American Family Association the Family Research Council all still exist and have even perhaps stepped up their efforts to minimize the effects of court defeats like the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act and Obergefell v Hodges.  There continues to be a steady disillusionment with traditional religious values as evidenced by the shrinking segment of the population identifying as “Christian” and a growing segment who identify with “unaffiliated.”  With the emergence of the Millennial Generation and growing demands for student loan debt relief and affordable health care and more in the minority communities demanding criminal justice reform and more stringent police accountability and environmental advocates seeking more corporate regulation and governmental oversight, we may very well see a decided move to the left by even a centrist court.  If either Democratic Presidential candidate emerges victorious in the 2016 General Election, we will see a decidedly more liberal court after their term.  The Obama legacy will be a less conservative Supreme Court.  As has been demonstrated in the past year, more non-conservatives will be seeking justice and constitutionally guaranteed liberties and less conservative interpretations of the law will help tilt our nation’s social axis leftward.

Leftward tilt