Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current state of U.S. politics is somewhat of a paradox; there is immense volatility and chaos in what politicians and public figures say they want to achieve, but notable stagnation in what they are able to do. This paradox has in part resulted from the disunity of the U.S. government, not only across party lines but within the parties themselves. While the lack of unity is evident in the 2016 presidential election, it also expresses itself in the divisive debates over issues like abortion rights and immigration. These debates were complicated enough on their own before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last Saturday.
Scalia had been a long-standing and respected conservative voice in the Supreme Court, and had helped to tip the balance toward the right in many important cases that came before the court in recent years. Now, it is likely the Court will come to a tie on major cases set to appear before the court within the year.
These cases cover issues that include abortion rights, affirmative action, class actions, contraception, immigration, public unions, jury selection and voting rights. When a tie results in the Supreme Court, the ruling of the lower court remains in place — in other words, no conclusive decision is likely to be made on any of these issues until a new justice is appointed.
However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has declared that he will not allow the empty Supreme Court seat to be filled by President Obama; he, along with other Senate Republicans, will veto any nominee put forward by Obama. This movement to make Obama impotent when it comes to carrying out the executive action of appointing court justices is not new — it began in January of 2015, when the GOP took a majority in the Senate and vowed to refuse appointing any of Obama’s nominees for vacancies in the regional federal courts.
McConnell has gained the support of many of the candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination, including front-runners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who have turned Scalia’s death into a talking point in their campaigns. While few other party members have gone this far in their rhetoric regarding the current state of the Supreme Court, the calls made by Cruz, Trump and McConnell to delay Obama until he is out of office are not falling on deaf ears.
It is a sentiment that has been evident in the GOP throughout Obama’s presidency, especially in his last term — prevent Obama from taking any action and wait until the next election to put someone in office who can return the nation to its former glory. This has, in part, resulted in little tangible progress in the very things most Americans wish to see progress in.
Despite the hopes of Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, the political stagnation that currently exists in U.S. politics will not be resolved with the election of a new president. It is a debilitating problem that exists in all levels of government, and has resulted from sentiments that run deep throughout Washington. The only way our political system can begin to function how it needs to is if Congress ends the cycle of standing against the president just because he or she belongs to a different party.
A nominee for the Supreme Court should not be rejected or accepted simply because they were put forward by President Obama; they should be evaluated for their ability to help America come to just decisions on the issues that divide us. Nor should it become another promise for presidential candidates to add to their campaigns. Nominating the next Supreme Court justice must be done in the current political term, and with the haste that Americans deserve.