The news of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, effective July 31st, is just one of the many current events that are working in favor of Republicans. Not only do they control the Executive and Legislative Branches, but the current administration will most likely appoint a future Justice that will uphold a Republican majority in the Judiciary Branch for potentially the next half a century.This monopoly on the government’s traditional checks and balances system morphs it into a political circus of Republicans versus Democrats, a vote that the minority will always lose. For example, the last three decisions of the SCOTUS ruled in a 5-4 split between the conservative justices Chief John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Anthony Kennedy up against the liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Supreme Court recently gained a lot of notoriety (as if they didn’t have enough already) in yesterday’s decision to uphold the Travel Ban— again, a 5-4 divide where Kennedy voted with the majority. But the notable part of Kennedy’s retirement announcement isn’t the timing itself— although, Democrats probably wish that Kennedy would have waited until after the next Presidential election to retire— rather, this is about an American Democracy becoming dangerously close to an authoritarian regime for a couple of reasons, if not more: 1) It gives the President yet another chance to flex his politically powered muscles and remind both his supporters and dissenters that he has control, which, by the way, is a premise that the President loves to saunter in as he “disinvites” the Philadelphia Eagles , believes that he is above the law in the Mueller probe, and offers presidential pardons/commutations like popsicles.
As the sole person who can appoint a justice (assuming Congress confirms the pick), he is the end all, be all of this decision. Of course, Republicans and Democrats alike will nominate candidates, but, per usual, the President will inevitably decide in alignment with his own interest and values. He has demonstrated a history and a propensity for bigotry, hatred, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and has continual disrespect for anyone who is not white and male. All of which he has disguised as a need for national/border security, the travel ban, and “a great victory for our constitution,” according to a NBC special report. While his appointed Justice may not hold these characteristics, it only follows that, at the very least, he or she is someone who traditionally has a conservative outlook, and thusly a conservative vote.
Which circles back to an earlier point suggested and reason number two of why our democracy is at stake with the current President’s appointment: A presumably Republican pick will solidify, once again, a majority in all three branches. Given that party members usually vote alike, majority, minority split votes across the branches will generally benefit Republicans, and thusly their policies. Which means the continued legalization of xenophobia and racism is the not only acceptable, but practiced by high ranking officials. This is a detrimental thought. Paired with the minority opinion being snubbed out and effectively silenced by the majority, there is little room for minority opinions and initiatives to be heard— let alone passed— because they are outnumbered and thereby not chosen in the name of advancing the majority because “most” people are in agreement. So, yes, on paper we still have a democracy where voting takes place and constituents are represented by committed members of congress working to pass legislation that will serve them, but in all actuality, there is little that the minority of any branch can do. In practice, voting becomes a formality, or a hoop to jump through, knowing that most likely, Republicans will take advantage of their majority standing.
Broadly speaking, this is the grave situation that can, and has already, started to happen with votes and congressional make-ups as they stand today. Or, as another option, congress becomes grid locked and the government shuts down. In this bleak moment, the country’s democracy is sliding into an authoritative skeleton masked in votes and majorities. It may not be complete obedience, but all the President needs is a majority and he can go with that all the way to the space force. So, what now? Where is the resistance to this supposed authoritativeness that I am suggesting? If anything, my provocativeness should ignite a fire and a sense of urgency for November’s midterm elections. The outcomes are extremely important, at the very least, for getting equal seats for Democrats and Republicans, if not serving as the first steps to reinstating a Democratic majority for a return to a true checks and balances system. In other words, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As more news surfaces around Justice Kennedy’s replacement, or perhaps beforehand, Democrats and possibly Independents must have some form of mass resistance. Whatever that may look like, however it is executed, this is the time to present a united front and not sit by the wayside as the minority continues to be second to the advancing majority. Most recently, Democrats have called to delay the confirmation until after the midterm elections, while the President and majority-holding members say it will happen as quickly as possible.