There is much to be alarmed about when reading the newspapers from day-to-day. Eastern Europe is ablaze, war crimes mount, and a madman is still alive in Moscow. But closer to home we have issues that tear at the fabric of our democracy, with the latest example coming from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
This week he stated Republicans would not have held hearings on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court if they held a majority in the Senate.
“If we get back the Senate, and we’re in charge of this body, and there’s judicial openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side,” Graham said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Jackson’s nomination. “But if we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee.”
Such is our politics in 2022. As a decades-long politico, I am embarrassed about the condition in which we now find ourselves. We can track the history of how we arrived at this place, and while there is plenty of specifics that can be placed on each party, that does not take away the fact that the above statement from Graham was reprehensible.
By the end of this week, the Senate could very well confirm the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. That is a significant stride for a nation that long had only white men holding those seats. Rather than honoring that moment or understanding a president has the right to his appointments, barring some egregious or illegal behavior on the part of the nominee, we instead are witnessing a very low moment in our politics.
(For the record, I have still not figured out what took place upon the death of Senator John McCain, a long-time friend of the South Carolina Senator, which unleashed a continual series of outrageous comments and behavior.)
I have long enjoyed the court nominees over the decades facing the Judiciary Committee and having views shared concerning how the law should be reasoned, probing into if and how the Constitution was a living document, and how precedent weighs into guiding authority for deciding subsequent cases. But the hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson were not what the public deserved, as they were not able to learn anything of substance over the four days.
What we were presented with, all too often, was base low-ball behavior.
I get it that the minority wants to be anything other than the minority. I get it that political points need to scored at some level, but the disrespectful questions, and then in some cases, the lack of a Republican listening to Jackson’s full response showcased what is currently wrong with our politics.
Not for the first time does this blog desire our conversations with each other to be more elevated. This blog has called out Madison radio personalities for low-brow on-air behavior, a president for cursing in public, and now the display our nation witnessed in the Judiciary Committee.
What strikes me, and I suspect a wide swath of the nation when it comes to Senate votes for court nominees, is the bipartisan nature we once enjoyed when placing new people on the bench. Here’s how our politics looked with those votes for court nominees going back to Antonin Scalia’s confirmation in 1986.
TAKE NOTE: Scalia had been the most celebrated justice on the right. He got 98 votes in his 1986 confirmation. The most celebrated justice on the left, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, got 96 votes in 1993.
What Graham said about the future of our political process in Washington is truly disturbing. How many judges nominated by President Biden will then-Majority Leader McConnell allow to be confirmed in a GOP majority chamber? Well, apparently the answer is zero. And that is simply destructive to democracy.
Our Founding Fathers envisioned several examples of possible dangerous behavior to democracy and placed solutions to them within the Constitution. But they simply could not have fathomed the degree of partisanship currently running through the Republican Party. Partisanship so deep and corrosive it would harm the nation itself.
We really do need to find some more ‘John McCains’ within the Republican Party to keep the ‘Lindsey Grahams’ tethered to democracy. Our nation demands it.
And so it goes.