After yesterday, I feel like I'm in the middle of a really good West Wing episode, where there are at least three incredibly tense plot threads running simultaneously and then an earth-shaking revelation drops in the last few minutes.
How can you even begin to process what happened yesterday?
Within a few hours, Justice Antonin Scalia was discovered dead in a resort, Mitch McConnell announced any potential Obama nominee would be blocked, and there was an absolute clown derby of a Republican debate.
I don't think it is much of a reach to say that Scalia's death is the single most important development in the politics of this country so far this year. Yeah, the New Hampshire results were shocking, this is life-altering.
It is really difficult to watch certain news channels and see this man described as "a man with a good sense of humor." Leaving aside the fact that this man's public utterances betray an especially caustic and demeaning form of 'humor,' this man was a cancer on the Supreme Court and this country. The sad thing is that apparently a great many people on both sides of the aisle, while sipping wine at dinner parties, didn't see this man for who he is. A monster, as my friend Nick Mancuso (@ ) put it.
What other word could you use to describe a man who would rather see an innocent man die if that's what a court decided, even if the evidence later exonerates him? That's not a conclusion or an inference. That's something Antonin wrote.
Scalia is famously the intellectual prime-mover behind "originalism," the idea that the Constitution of this country is a set and immutable document. Moreover, the meaning of any passage of the Constitution must be what the Founders meant at the time it was written. Scalia might defend this idea as stating no law is constitutional unless it exactly matches the divined intent of the founders. In plain English, just about everything in the past century from Affirmative Action, privacy, abortion rights, and campaign finance reform is out-of-bounds except through the amendment system. Although certainly Scalia's intellectual gymnastics brought him to the occasional heretical idea, make no mistake. Scalia should not be understood as some conservative prophet, preaching the true word to a fallen society. He existed as a creature of the Republican establishment in their project to maintain power, make money, and marshall the passions of this country's embattled theocratic minority.
I'm going to leave this here as a nice (and relatively restrained) summation of all the wonderful reasons to celebrate this toad's early demise. A day has passed, Scalia's body has reached room temperature, and it is time to have an honest accounting of the damage he did.
Unfortunately, Scalia managed to die at one of the most inopportune times possible. We are in the midst of the most vituperative campaign I've ever lived through. The Republican party, shattered into half a dozen warring camps, has decided to put their own petty self-interests above fulfilling constitutional duties. It's hilarious how Republican always manage to find reasons why everyone should follow the Constitution except them.
Look, let's get this straight. The Constitution is pretty clear about what happens when there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The president nominates a replacement and the Senate votes on whether or not to approve them. In recent years that process has become more contentious. Arguably that's a good thing. Supreme Court Justices serve for life and as we saw with Scalia, exercise an out-sized impact on this country. The days when Anthony Kennedy could receive 97 votes to zero for confirmation in a Democratic Senate are long gone. Recent appointments have been enormously controversial and contested events and I think that's the way it should be.
But they were contested.
For the Majority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, to preemptively block ANY nominee from Obama is beyond outrageous. It demonstrates, unequivocally, that the power structure of the Republican party no longer has any interest in governing this country. They want to maintain their grip on a country that rapidly running out of their kind of voter. This not the action of a confident and responsible political party. This is what happens when old, fearful men get a glimpse of a future without them.
And let's be clear, the past eight years have been more than a glimpse of that future. Barack Obama was the first president of an America that is only now coming into focus. He was elected by a coalition of the young, hopeful, and rational sections of this country. He was opposed by personifications of our national id.
Think that's an overstatement?
Witness the train wreck of last night's Republican Debate.
Can't turn away can you?
The debates have been one of my favorite reality TV shows since they debuted this summer, filled with more desperate and insane schemers than this year's Bachelor. I wish they had cut the numbers of contestants earlier because it got hard to tell them apart but now we're down to six and the lifeboat mentality is truly setting in. None of these individuals should get anywhere near the Oval Office, but watching them savage each other like deranged ferrets is just fun. Who would have thought that most coherent argument against conservatism and Republicans would appear within a Republican debate. We had Trump blasting W for 9/11 far more effectively than any Democrat I've ever seen. Rubio called Cruz a liar. Cruz looked like he was going to punch someone. Everyone looked like they wanted to punch Cruz.
I mean, I get it. If you have only a casual interest in politics, the Kabuki theater aspect of debates can grate. You want them to just say what's on your mind. You want them to get rough. You want those responsible to get punched in the mouth. You don't care about who actually would make a good president. You want to be on the winning side.
So, we have six men who really ought to know better shouting at each other for two hours. I'd be worried except every time one of these things happen Trump has gotten a little closer to being the Republican nominee and losing to WHICHEVER Democrat wins our primaries. That's not even looking at the Electoral College. That's before people realize what's at stake with the Supreme Court. Yeah, anything can happen in nine months. I still like our chances.