Partisanship Rules Out Over Integrity
The late John Lewis said: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something, you have to do something.” This is my motivation for speaking out on the Republicans’ decision to go ahead and nominate a replacement to the Supreme Court in light of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last weekend.
Is anyone surprised that the Republicans have reverted to the worst kind of partisanship by promising to nominate a Supreme Court Justice to replace Ginsburg? After all, they did the exact opposite back in 2016 when the Democrats nominated Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia who had died during the 2016 election year and the completion of Obama’s second term. It’s hypocrisy at its worst.
At that time, Mitch McConnell said let the voters have their say on who should do the nominating based on whether the Republicans or Democrats win the election. Now, McConnell says it’s OK to nominate a new justice because a majority of the Senators are Republicans and we have a Republican President. Say what?
This reminds me of the old saying, “To the victor go the spoils.” The expression originated in America in 1832. William Marcy, a senator from New York, was making a political statement against the Democratic Party. It’s nice to know we haven’t progressed as a moral society for 188 years.
It’s no wonder Americans are tired of political partisanship and politicians in particular. They are the worst kind of decision-makers. They place their political interests ahead of what’s in the best interests of the country. They care less about doing the right thing and more about furthering their own political agenda.
Trump does have the constitutional authority to nominate a new justice right now and the Senate has the authority to vote—or not vote—on that nominee. The arguments for not doing so are moral, not political. In ethics, we have a saying: Just because you may have a right to do something, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
It gets worse. The Democrats are crying about the fact they could lose another voice in the Court making it a clear majority of right-leaning Republicans. They forget having done the same thing with the Garland nomination. Now they are threatening to expand the Court, if they get elected, to get back a clear majority of left-leaning justices.
The sad part of all the partisanship is Supreme Court Justices are supposed to interpret the law, not make new laws. If this were true then it wouldn’t matter who is on the Court. But it’s not true. The Court has become politicized. For instance, the Democrats only want those Justices who support the Roe v. Wade decision about abortion.
Voters have a recourse. If they do not like the Republican nominee or the process followed to push through that nomination, they can vote Trump out as well as Republican Senators up for re-election. The Republicans will open up the pandora’s box of political risk if they go forward.
What this experience teaches us is there no longer are “statesmen” in Congress. The last one may have been Republican Senator John McCain, who didn’t hesitate voting Democratic if his conscience leaned that way. The late John Lewis is another example of putting right ahead of what is expedient. That is what a person of integrity does.
The pursuit of self-interest and selfish disregard for what’s right are the twin pillars of biased decision-making that places one’s own interest ahead of what should be done to support a moral society.
This experience also reminds me of the expression “brou, ha, ha,” an exclamation used by characters representing the devil in 16th-century drama. Need I say more?
Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 24, 2020. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Dr. Mintz’s activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter .