Three Reasons I'm Not Giddy About Justice Kennedy's Retirement

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see Justice Kennedy leave the bench and I’m glad his replacement isn’t being picked by a Democrat. I’m not ready to celebrate yet though. (Who am I kidding? I can already think of at least half a dozen people who will intentionally get me wrong, but that’s political commentary in 2018.)

Reason 1: The first reason I’m not ready to celebrate yet is simply that I dread the tsunami of lunacy and demagoguery that will soon lay waste to any real discussion of the Constitution or individual liberties. It’s already beginning. Senator Susan Collins has been all over television defending Roe v. Wade and announcing her personal litmus test regarding who she’ll vote to approve. Collins calls the hypothetical overturning of “settled law” an act of judicial activism which in this case is really just political-speak for “people who vote for me love abortion.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. Soon we will be inundated with screeching celebrities vomiting out fever dreams about our imminent Handmaid’s Tale future. There will be food fights on all the talking head channels and not a single anchor, pundit, politician, or “strategist” will be able to turn the discussion into anything even superficially resembling a rational debate. There is even a new band of truthers hoping to convince America that President Trump somehow illegally coerced Justice Kennedy to retire. The stupid is going to come hard and fast in 2018. Unlike a lot of conservative commentators, I don’t find that sort of thing entertaining because it just steals oxygen from important ideas and lets stupidity pass for “conventional wisdom.”

Reason 2: Thanks to Republicans like Collins, I’m not convinced the GOP will get whomever Trump nominates confirmed prior to the midterm elections. Maybe Mitch McConnell can withstand the Democrats hanging his Merrick Garland “let the American people decide” gambit around his neck like a burning truck tire. Maybe enough Democrats will stand against the “resistance” to offset any Republican defectors. Maybe if Republicans gain the House, the Senate, and the Whitehouse, they’ll repeal Obamacare. Oh wait.

Whether or not they get someone confirmed before the mid-terms, the issue will inject a fair amount of chaos into the elections. If the balance is tipped toward originalism in the SCOTUS, the left is going to be energized by their panic. If the confirmation gets pushed off until after the elections, the left is going to be energized by their panic. One thing that is certain though, going into any confirmation process, the left is going to be energized by their panic. Granted, the right will be energized as well, but the impending chaos just creates uncertainty for me. This could all lead to a different balance of power in 2019, which leads to Reason 3.

Reason 3: Thankfully, Trump outsourced his list of potential SCOTUS nominees and spared us from whatever reality show mess he might have created by attempting to make his own picks. I didn’t believe he would, but he kept that promise, at least with Gorsuch. Still, I’m hopeful now that his initial pick for Kennedy’s vacancy will be from the same list.

The potential problem I see is that the Gorsuch nomination process isn’t likely to be replicated this time. Replacing Scalia with Gorsuch didn’t change the balance of the court, so the left didn’t put up much of a fight. This time it won’t be a layup. The potential for reaching an impasse seems more likely this time. What will happen if the President has to shift into “Let’s Make a Deal” mode?  No one can honestly argue that Trump is truly passionate about what kind of justices sit on the Supreme Court, hence the outsourcing of the list of potential nominees. As with Obamacare, we are in an area where I don’t trust that the President cares about the things I care about. With this nomination and the surrounding political drama, Trump may be put in a position where he has to improvise and that makes me uncomfortable.

For the few Trump cheerleaders who may have actually read this far, I’m not predicting that any of these things will happen. I just see them as possibilities because I’m still skeptical about government and politicians.


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