In the political aftermath to the news of the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Democrats and Republicans are already drawing up battle lines in this election year over how and when a new judge should be nominated and approved. Republican leaders immediately went on record arguing that Scalia’s replacement should be decided by the American people, who by electing a new president will show whether they favor a conservative or liberal court. They counsel the Senate not to approve any Obama nominee. President Obama, on the other hand, in his short press conference responding to the news of Scalia’s passing fired a warning shot across the bow of the Senate, declaring that in due time he will present a nominee to the Senate and that the Senate must “do their job” in advising and consenting to his nominee.
Unfortunately, due to the division and intransigence of the political parties in Washington, D.C., Mr. Obama will most likely nominate an ideologically liberal lawyer/judge for the ninth Supreme Court chair, the Republicans will stonewall, and the Democrats will cry foul. This sad state of affairs is the fault of both parties, in my opinion, but particularly of this present administration which instead of looking to unify the country has done more than any administration to demonize the opposition and impose its agenda with little compromise.
Though partisan politics certainly did not begin with Mr. Obama’s presidency, his early words and actions poured fuel on the fires already burning in 2009. Perhaps you remember the emergency meeting of Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House just three days after Mr. Obama’s inauguration (January 23, 2009) to discuss the “Affordable Care Act” being touted as the solution to America’s health care woes. After Republicans were given an opportunity to voice their grievances over excessive bureaucracy and special interest quirks being proposed, Mr. Obama dismissed their thoughts with a blunt statement summarized thusly by news outlets: “The election’s over. I won. Deal with it.” In other words, “We will do things my way, so get on board.” By setting a “slash and burn” approach to any opposition, Obama and the Democratic leadership fostered a highly antagonistic and increasingly entrenched Republican establishment.
It is true that Mr. Obama won reelection in 2012. It is also true that the American electorate voiced their unhappiness with Democratic policies by sweeping Republicans into the majority in the Senate and increasing their majority in the House. It seems now that Mr. Obama’s words back in 2009 are now rebounding with a vengeance he had not anticipated. The shoe is on the other foot as Republicans parrot his words back to him and his party: “The election is over. We won. Deal with it.”
The Senate has every right constitutionally to block any nomination of the President. That typically doesn’t happen, but given how Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party have trampled on the Republicans in the Senate during his first five years, it is no surprise that the Republicans who now hold the reins in the Senate show signs of defiance. What goes around comes around.
Perhaps the next administration will learn a lesson from all this, and seek to build consensus from the start of their term. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?