Commentary: Nominations to the United States Supreme Court used to be fairly tame and mundane administrative business. A nominee was either quickly judged to possess the professional background and temperament to sit on the nation’s highest court, or not. But those more civilized days, like so many other manifestations of past civilized public behavior, now seem to be long gone and things of the past.
For decades now, nominations to the Court have devolved into warfare. This process has become partisan and ugly. A nominee today make look less professor-like and more like an angry customer complaining about being served a bad meal and still get confirmed to the High Court for a lifetime appointment.
Lost in this all-out-battle to win at all costs is what is ultimately in the best interests of the nation. A president may nominate not so much the best man or woman for the job but someone as payment back to reward their political base of support. Senators voting yes-or-no on the nominee use calculus to decide what is in their own personal political future’s best interest as the reason for voting the way they do. The nominee, once he or she is seated on the High Court, may make decisions favorable to the political forces who supported him or her not so much based in law but upon emotion and the desire to reward those who pushed for their confirmation or to punish those who didn’t.
It is hard to see any blue skies on the horizon for the storm this entire process has become. Both sides of the political spectrum become angrier each time a confirmation process does not go their way. Things will likely get worse before they get any better.
In America, one thing that always stood out was that our nation was different from others in the world. Our nation professed to have the best and most evolved and representative form of government ever devised. Our nation professed to build processes into the system that respected the rights of everyone, including those in a minority. Our citizens saw the High Court as the most trustworthy branch of national government. People viewed those who sat on the Court as above the nasty fray of political fighting and the pursuit of selfish interests only. But now, more and more people see the Court being pulled deeper into that Swamp of government that our American president and others talk so much about today.
In America today, certain groups may win a particular battle. But as a nation, we are losing the larger war. We are losing sight of what our nation was intended to be. We may lose faith in a Supreme Court that has greater incentive to serve the needs of a chosen few over basing decisions solidly and solely upon the law. We are losing the war for civility in our public affairs and in our personal interactions with those who disagree with our own opinions.
The temptation for many is to blame the Senate, or a political party, or the confirmation process, or a nominee, or the media, or something else. It has been said that people get the kind of government that they tolerate and deserve. If this is true, then we may have a clue to understand why we’re having such a climate of crazy around us.
So, Act One of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court is now complete. What remains in the years ahead is to see whether he will be the fair and honest interpreter of the law he claims to be, or if he becomes just another tool in today’s hyper-partisan toolkit.