I woke from my pre-bedtime nap yesterday to find that news of Antonin Scalia’s death was almost an hour old. I uttered an uncharitable interjection.
It was uncharitable because I did not think of his family or his grandchildren or anything like that. It was uncharitable because his death is one of those eucatastrophes in an already unorthodox election year that could blow the joint wide open.
First, let me get out of the way that I did not like Antonin Scalia. I’ve heard that some of his opinions on defendent’s rights were good and he had a soft spot for habeas corpus. So, the guy wasn’t all bad.
But this is the same Supreme Court justice who helped give us Citizen’s United and didn’t think Brown vs the Board of Education was a good decision.
If you are the kind of voter who only cares about abortion and whether gay people get away with doing “unnatural” things with their naughty bits without being stoned, then Scalia was your guy. I might point out that the Supreme Court has had five justices to overturn Roe v Wade for over eight years now and as far as I know, it hasn’t been overturned so someone hasn’t been entirely honest with you.
But if you cared about more than sexual morality, then Antonin Scalia was one of the moving forces behind some of the most regressive Supreme Court decisions of our modern age. He affected everything from voting rights to workers rights.
I have to admit that I have had a secret desire that one of the conservative justices would reach an age where their parts would unexpectedly wear out in time to make a difference. It didn’t much matter to me which one it was. Roberts, Alito or Thomas are too young so I suppose it had to be Scalia.
So, what does this mean for 2016? Well, one of the first things to come to my mind is that there won’t be enough justices to tamper with the voting rights act case they were planning to take on. That one, had it been decided 5-4 along party lines, would have stripped urban districts of even more voting strength because some rural districts in Texas complained they didn’t have the population to go toe to toe with a place like Austin. And it won’t have the extra vote to stick a knife through the heart of public unions by allowing freeriders to not pay dues. Those were two juicy decisions that I am sure the Republicans are going to hate losing.
We can speculate on how this will play out in this election year.
If the Republicans decide to block the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, The Democrats can use that in the general election to illustrate that when Republicans don’t like something, they don’t compromise, they don’t concede the other side’s right to do what the law requires. No, they obstruct. They’ve been doing this for at least two decades in every branch of government. If we don’t let them aggressively roll over everything that is important to us, they refuse to cooperate.
It could make the Republicans rally around Ted Cruz. This could be another opportunity for the Republicans to roll out the shiny, sparkly abortion football again. The fundamentalists will salivate over that and will completely forget that if there’s a 5th conservative justice again, the court’s priorities will be all about squashing labor and keeping people from voting again. All you need to do is look at recent history. Will fundamentalists look past the sinning junk on their bodies that Satan is controlling to think about the greater repercussions to their economic stability and ability to change their political minds in the future? I am not hopeful that fundies will grow brains overnight so expect them to go nutz with the baby murderer stuff again forgetting all about the job murderers that appreciate Scalia types.
This might be an issue for Trump and not in a good way. He doesn’t have Cruz’s nauseating religious bona fides.
On the Democratic side, it could potentially take the wind out of Bernie’s sails. If the GOP is steadfast about blocking a new justice, the party will want to unite around the stronger candidate going into the general. That’s assuming the Democrats still care about things like voting rights, which I am assuming they do.
By the way, I am not confident that Obama will nominate a liberal justice. He’s not a liberal and I have no idea how Kagan and Sotomayor will vote now that their votes might actually count for something. The titans of industry, both finance and Silicon Valley, have a completely different agenda and it also isn’t particularly nice to workers. So, who knows what will happen there? We’re all going to have to scrutinize records very carefully. If Obama nominates someone the Republicans can actually vote for, we could be right back to where we were yesterday morning when we all thought that Scalia was just sleeping in.
What’s your prognostications? See any twists in this story coming up? Who do you trust and who is going to benefit from Scalia’s death? Add your comments below.
Update: From the NYTimes post on Scalia’s legacy comes this comment from John0123 that sums it up perfectly:
I’m about as grief-stricken over this news as Scalia would have been to hear that liberal poster John0123 had died.
Former justice Scalia always assumed he was the smartest guy in the room and often came close to saying so. Unfortunately his personal “strict constructionism” was a sham in light of the highly activist rulings he either wrote or joined. Citizens United comes immediately to mind, where he gleefully conferred personhood upon corporations and the status of speech upon money..
How will the so-called “conservatives” in the Senate play this? Moderate President Obama is very likely to name a moderate replacement. Will the fire-breathers in the Senate get a grip on themselves and take a good deal while they can get it, or will they roll the dice on the 2016 election and run the considerable risk of having a President Hillary or a President Bernie name Scalia’s much more progressive replacement?
At least one of us readers isn’t buying into the crazy notion that Obama is a liberal.
Happy Valentine’s Day!