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  • James D. Shipman

The Principles of our Republic are more important than temporary gain for either party.

I am disturbed by the position of the Republican Senate, that they are going to move forward with confirming a new Supreme Court Justice prior to the November 3 election. This has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. The issue is that in 2016, the Republicans took the opposite approach. At the time there was almost a year left in President Obama's presidency. He put forth the name of a candidate, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, refused to move the candidate forward because it was an election year. This in and of itself is a break with general precedent, and created a new problem that would likely lead to long term consequences in the future.


Worse yet; however, is to now cynically take the opposite position. Now, with a bare forty days left before the election, Mr. McConnell wants to move forward with confirming a new Justice before the election. Why? A variety of reasons are being given, but the reality is that it is because it benefits the Republican party to obtain a third conservative Justice on the Supreme Court. There are many people who praise this; pointing out their opposition to Roe v. Wade, or other issues that a more conservative court may ultimately sway. In general, the court moves back and forth between a more conservative approach and a more liberal approach. At the end of the day, the scale balances. That is not my issue with this decision. My issue relates to the harm to the system itself.


This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent. I believe it is quite possible, that from this point forward, the only way a Justice will be confirmed, regardless of the timing, is when both the Senate and the President are from the same parties. This means there could be years, even decades at a time, when the Supreme Court will be short one or more Justices. This will be problematic in many foreseeable and unforeseeable ways.


Not only is this alarming, but it is yet another example of the two parties taking a scorched earth approach toward the other. Our governmental system is not set up for the parties to be at war. Our system requires reaching across the aisle in order to be effective. We are seeing the fracture of our compromise system in the failure of the parties to pass budgets, keep the government running, and in the new battles over subpoenas, investigations, and of course, confirmations. If we wish to go this route, and we don't want a dictatorship, the only answer may be to convert to a parliamentary system, where one party is in charge for a period of time, and is basically able to push through much of its platform until the populace grows tired of that party's position, and a new election is called.


Whether such a radical governmental change could be accomplished amidst such acrimony, is in itself unlikely.


Something must be done, and it must be done soon. But who will stand up for centrist American principles of democracy over partisanship? I hope and pray there is a compromise and an answer to those questions.

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