If Democrats cave on Gorsuch they’ll be sorry

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 3/23/2017, 5:59 a.m.

The day the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Appeals Court Judge and Scalia’s nominated replacement, Neil Gorsuch, said he could barely get down a ski run in Colorado because he was so blinded by tears at his death. This was not a private utterance or personal feeling of deep emotion that he shared with friends and family. He told of his profound sorrow in a speech in April 2016 at Case Western University. Gorsuch wanted the world to know that Scalia was more than just a heartfelt friend. He was a man and a judge whose legal and judicial ideas Gorsuch was in total lockstep with.

Scalia represented judicially everything that liberal Democrats, civil rights, civil liberties, women rights and public interest groups regard as wrong with the Supreme Court. His opinions and votes on crucial cases read like a what’s-what of legal horror stories. Scalia tipped the White House to Bush in Bush v. Gore in 2000, voted to gut voting rights, oppose same sex marriage and gay rights protections, scrap the checks on corporate spending on elections, whittle away at abortion rights and give free rein to corporations to discriminate by narrowing down who could file class action lawsuits.

The only reason that Gorsuch hasn’t matched his mentor and idol Scalia’s 19th-century grounded voting record on key cases, is that he hasn’t been on the court for the decades Scalia was on the high court. But there’s enough in his thin resume on cases that pertain to abortion rights, Planned Parenthood funding, a powerhouse federal judiciary, and most menacingly the strictest of strict reading of the constitutionalism, branded “originalism,” to serve as fair warning of what’s to come if he gets on the SCOTUS. And, as with Scalia, it won’t be pretty.

This is one of the few times that Senate Democrats can do exactly what Senate Republicans did with Obama’s pick to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland, use the filibuster to say no. The GOP concocted a blatant lie to justify their obstructionism, that Obama was a lame duck president, and lame duck presidents don’t and shouldn’t have the right to put someone of the high court on their way out. They pooh-poohed the fact that the Senate has approved other lame duck presidents’ picks to the courts including Reagan’s pick of Anthony Kennedy in 1988, Reagan’s last year in office.

They blocked Garland not because of protocol, propriety or tradition, but raw, naked and brutal partisan politics. The GOP understands that the Supreme Court is not just a neutral arbiter to settle legal disputes. It is a lethal weapon to skirt congressional gridlock and serve a dual role as a judicial and legislative body. This meant scrapping the long-standing tradition on the court where justices based their legal decisions solely on the merit of the law, constitutional principles and the public good, and not on ideology. Trump and his hard-right conservative backers are fully aware that the court’s power to be de facto legislators could last for decades. After all, presidents and congresspersons come and go, but justices can sit there until death if they choose. Scalia was proof of that. He sat for 30-plus years on the bench.