Last week I was flying back from NY to San Diego. It was the day of the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings and you could watch live television from the Direct TV feed on the plane. An older gentleman sitting across the aisle from me was watching the hearings and literally screaming at the television as senators questioned the nominee. People are losing their minds right now. I believe it was Richard Nixon who coined the term “the silent majority” referring to what he believed were simple law-abiding conservatives who were going about their business quietly while “radical hippies” marched the streets in protest of the Vietnam War. Today, I think the silent majority resides in the middle and their voice is noticeably absent in this hyper-partisan world we are living in.
I have always believed that elections are what matter, therefore Republican presidents should be able to appoint qualified conservative judges to the bench and Democratic presidents should be able to appoint qualified liberal judges. So even though I’m not a Trump supporter when he nominated Kavanaugh, I didn’t give it much thought. However, what I did care about already happened months earlier. In the last two years, Senate Republicans made two extraordinary moves that will change the direction of the Supreme Court and American politics for decades. They took the unprecedented step to block Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for almost a year, refusing to even conduct hearings on his nomination, and they eliminated the filibuster for SCOTUS confirmations, effectively ending the need for any bipartisan support for future nominees. The latter decision paved the way for Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate, but in the process cemented the extreme division of the court. It’s fair to note that Democratic Senator Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for the confirmation of non-SCOTUS federal judges when he was majority leader. Without the need for bipartisan agreement, Republican presidents will nominate only the most partisan justices (when they control the Senate) and the Democrats will do the same. While it has been trending this way for some time, the Supreme Court of the United States, the keepers of our constitution, the one branch of our government intended by our founding fathers to be independent of ideological politics, is now as firmly divided and as partisan as the U.S. Congress… not so good for our country.
Were the Republicans wrong to make those moves? After all, they were within the rules and would certainly argue that in this extreme political environment, bipartisan agreement is as extinct as the dodo bird, and the hapless Democratic leadership would have opposed any nominee made by this president — so in the end they had no choice. This may be true, but it is also certain that in any other circumstance, a nominee as flawed as Justice Kavanaugh would never had made it anywhere near the Supreme Court. So you decide. The Kavanaugh nomination process was a painful thing to watch no matter which side you were on. It highlighted the fact that fanatical ideologues on both sides are controlling the narrative. Ideologues are bad for our country because they believe that the end always justifies the means, and they don’t care about the damage to our country that is left in the wake of any political fight. In my view, that means that they don’t really care about America. Those of us that are near the center should be less concerned about short-term wins or losses, and more concerned about the breakdown of our institutions. The Kavanaugh hearings once again demonstrated that we desperately need the silent majority in the middle to step up and take this country back. We need leaders, not mindless partisans. The American system is what makes this country great, not any individual occupant in Congress, the White House, or the Supreme Court.