Op-EdOpinionUncategorized

MUHAMMAD: Hard Times Ahead for Senate Republicans

I confess. I am amused, tickled, delighted even, as I ponder the constitutional quagmire in which the arch-conservative Repugnikkkan Party finds itself today.

I derisively refer to them as Repugnikkans because their ideology is repugnant to me, and their quasi-legal, police-state tactics against Black people in particular in this country more closely resemble the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, which arose in the post-Reconstruction-era Southern United States in order to quash the national reforms instituted by Abraham Lincoln’s original Grand Old Party intended to benefit the freed slaves.

Now, this Republican Party of Richard Nixon and Strom Thurmond and David Duke is living its worst nightmare, a Black man is President of the United States, and he has completed seven full, scandal-free years in office.

And now, Justice Antonin Scalia, the “brilliant,” arch-conservative, anchor of the Supreme Court’s right wing has suddenly died, leaving the president they loathe, with the authority to name Justice Scalia’s successor.

The GOP leaders are gnashing their teeth. But to use a Shakespearean term, they have been “hoisted by their own petard.” The “originalist,” “strict constructionist” Constitutional web they had woven for President Barack Obama, has now bound them up.

You see the Constitution (they swear by) gives the president the absolute authority to name members of the Supreme Court, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. But the Repugnikkans want to deny Obama some of the authority the Constitution grants him for his remaining 11 months in office. Ironically, when the Constitution was written, the new president was not inaugurated until March, after the November election.

Obama’s two previous nominees — Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor —required an average of 76 days (less than two months) from their nomination until their confirmation. There’s plenty of time to confirm someone.

In any case, if left to the GOP, the Supreme Court will be potentially gridlocked for the next 11 months with a four-to-four split between conservative justices they love and the liberal justices they despise. They would render the Court to be dysfunctional, just like their leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives have been since 2014.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in a statement, issued even before he offered condolences to Scalia’s wife and nine children. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Obama would have none of it. “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama told reporters traveling with him in California on the day Scalia’s death was known. “There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They’re bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy.”

Obama remembered Scalia as a “larger-than-life presence on the bench. He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape,” the President said. “He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) was quick to respond to the threats from her Republican colleagues. “Sen. McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice,” she posted on her Facebook account. “In fact, they did—when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.” Ba-da-boom. Rimshot.

What’s worse for the GOP is that they could in fact lose not only the presidency with their toxic leading candidates—Trump, Cruz, Rubio—but could also lose their Senate majority. “Mitch McConnell is in a very awkward circumstance,” Dr. David Bositis, a political scientist and statistician told me, “where he could easily lose his majority in the Senate. This is a favorable year for Democrats.”

In 2014, the majority of the Senate seats up for re-election were those held by Democrats. In 2016, of the 34 Senate seats in contention, 24 are currently held by Republicans, including several in states which Obama won in both 2008 and 2012.

Add to that the changing national demographic with more eligible Latino and Black voters heading to the polls in 2016, and declining numbers of White voters whose population is declining rather than increasing, and I’m delighted.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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