When Associate Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last February, he left behind an impressively conservative — nonetheless consistent — court record. He sat on the Supreme Court for nearly thirty years, and during his tenure solidified himself as a strong, constitutionally traditionalist force on the bench. Scalia’s death was both unexpected and sudden, and essentially thrust the Supreme Court into the spotlight of American news coverage. Usually only visible during high-profile rulings, the Supreme Court was transformed into a highly publicized, highly politicized entity. Within the context of the election season and President Obama’s last year in office, Scalia’s death proved shockingly drastic to the American governmental system.
In response to Scalia’s death, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as his successor. Twice considered yet overlooked by President Obama — first in 2009 when Justice Sonya Sotomayor was selected, and again in 2010 when Justice Elena Kagan was selected — Garland’s close proximity to both President Obama and the political environment of Washington D.C. made it appear he would be confirmed with no trouble. A two-time Harvard graduate, Garland embodied a moderate judicial figure with occasional liberal tendencies; Garland would have provided non-partisan, independent judicial rulings, occasionally erring toward the left regarding issues of freedom of speech and civil rights.
In the following eight months, whereby political party polarization and the infantile behavior of brainless politicians were swiftly favored over that of the Constitution and historical institutions of American democracy, President Obama was ultimately denied a Senate confirmation hearing for Garland by the Republican majority within Congress. In declaring their opposition against a lame-duck president nominating a Supreme Court Justice, the Republicans insisted the American public ought to voice their choice for the next Supreme Court Justice through their selection of the next president. Undoubtedly, the Republicans were hooting when Donald Trump won the presidency, as their gamble with American democracy had fully paid off.
When President Trump first released his list of proposed cabinet positions, and the American public took their first gazes at the overwhelming sea of wrinkly, sour, unqualified, old, white billionaires — and the occasional neo-Nazi, or perhaps even worse, that grizzly-bear-loving nut Betsy DeVos — the thought on the back of everyone’s mind was, “which white guy will Trump nominate to the Supreme Court?” On Jan. 31, President Trump announced his replacement for Scalia in the form of Neil M. Gorsuch, an appellate judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
A quick online search of “Neil Gorsuch” will supply you with two initial findings. First, and unsurprisingly, you will discover Gorsuch to be a political conservative. Second, and quite surprisingly, you will find a novel entitled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, penned by Gorsuch. When I first came across the latter, I was shocked. Initially, I expected it to be some sort of cultish, population control-esque novel, the contents of which would render Gorsuch to be equally questionable to that of literally every other Trump nominee in existence. However, the book was actually a quite thorough examination of assisted suicide and euthanasia, and one that effectively explored both the social and ethical stipulations surrounding the extremely controversial practices. Bluntly, Gorsuch provided an articulate denouncement of assisted suicide and euthanasia; unsurprising as a conservative political figure, but uncharacteristic of other Trump nominees in that Gorsuch possessed actual knowledge of what he was writing about. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, Gorsuch nonetheless used his capacity as an academic figure and law professional to produce a thought-provoking piece of work.
Maddeningly predictable — especially within our wonderfully inept governmental system — is the opposition currently underway by Senate Democrats toward confirming Gorsuch as a judge. A particularly sad piece of the modern American governmental system that never ceases to surprise me is the seemingly unavoidable hypocrisy that divides our Congress. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell succeeded in barring Merrick Garland from a Senate confirmation hearing last year, and in doing so let his jowls hang low upon the fabric of our Constitution, the Democrats — rightfully so — responded with heated backlash, acting as if McConnell’s actions were the single worst behavior to have occurred in American history. However, the tables turn ever so slightly, and Pelosi now heads the opposition, implying she plans to do the same thing to Gorsuch that McConnell did to Garland less than a year ago. This is the cycle of our government: one party whines about the actions of another, blames them for the inefficiency of the system, and then when power changes hands, seemingly forgets about their own complaints and do quite literally the exact same thing to which they originally objected. This, my dear readers, is why our government gets nothing done; we have such feeble-minded leaders that would rather halt the process of American democracy than simply hear the Supreme Court nominee of an opposing party. Even as a Democrat, I sincerely hope the Democratic Party fails in their attempts to halt Gorsuch from a Senate hearing. We all ought to be sick of the foolishness and hypocrisy of our governmental leaders.
It can be very difficult imagining a Trump nominee in any department to be relevant, or at the most basic of capacities, sane. While Trump has nominated a slew of blockheads to fill his establishment, perhaps Gorsuch may be the small — truly almost unseeable — light at the end of the Trump tunnel. As it currently sits, Gorsuch seems to be one of the least problematic nominees of the Trump administration, and although that is certainly subject to change, the man does not outwardly pose a threat to our nation. Within the seemingly cataclysmic news produced about Gorsuch, one must remember that the repealing of DOMA, the subsequent nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, and the upholding of the Affordable Care Act all occurred under a 5-4 conservatively-leaning bench. A successful confirmation of Gorsuch will return the Supreme Court to a 5-4 conservative lean, and yet so much progress — with respect to civil rights rulings — was achieved under a similarly ideological court.
Though Gorsuch’s existence on the Supreme Court will be rooted in the Trump administration, I propose we give Gorsuch a chance to be recognized, at the very least, in an unobstructed Senate confirmation hearing. The process of American government cannot afford to be halted any longer, and if we expect to recover after the next four years of unconstitutional presidential garbage, we must uphold the Constitution now, when it seems most difficult, and allow Gorsuch to be heard.