I will leave it to others to eulogize the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I am not the right person for that assignment. But I would like to discuss the implications of his death.
President Obama has said he will nominate a successor right away, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block any nominee’s confirmation until a new President is in office.
Shamelessly political? Of course, but the Republican Party has long ago abandoned all pretense of decency, so nobody should be surprised.
What this latest standoff does is highlight one of the life-and-death choices in November’s elections. It’s a choice that would have been inevitable even without Scalia’s untimely passing.
He was 79 years old and would probably have retired during the next President’s term, anyway. At least two other aging justices – Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsberg – are expected to retire soon, and it will be the next President’s Constitutional duty to appoint their successors.
With a Republican in the White House, the retiring judges would be replaced with conservatives. And that would surely mean the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the end of Obamacare and further erosion of hard-won civil rights.
A conservative court would also provide a firewall against environmental regulations and put the world at risk from increasingly violent climate change, enshrine the right to “bear arms,” defend the interests of corporations and the rich at the expense of the middle class, and end the hope of compassionate immigration reform.
In short, a conservative court would inexorably reverse a century of progress and reinvent American society in the likeness of a less enlightened era.
That is what the Republican base want. And you can be sure they will turn out in force this November to get it.
A radically right-wing Supreme Court may be the most frightening threat facing voters this time around, but it is not the only one. I, personally, shuddered at the tax plans promised by Republican presidential candidates in last night’s debate, for example. And their unanimous pledge of endless military aggression sent chills down my spine.
If ever there was an election with consequences, this is it.
It’s not just the White House that’s at stake. To be effective, a progressive President will need a progressive Congress.
To paraphrase Madeleine Albright, there’s “a special place in Hell” for enlightened Americans – young, old and in-between, black, white and every other shade – who fail to vote in November.