Jim Crawford: Breyer retires and Supreme Court fight begins

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2022

With the retirement announcement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, we once again must endure the theatre of the absurd that was once a process to protect the integrity of the court through vetting candidates of substance.

Now, thanks to the success of Senate Minority Leader McConnell in packing the court to the far right of American politics, the appointment of a new associate justice will still leave the court overfilled with what may fairly be called the ideological/theocratic Republican Court.

Nominated and confirmed by rubber-stamped McConnell choices, the Big Three, Gorsuch, Barrett and Kavanaugh, stand poised to move the country to the Religious Right while promising to flaunt precedent and ignore the will of the people.

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The best we can hope for is a justice with the demeanor and character of retiring Justice Breyer, whose philosophical approach to the constitution was that the court stands to address the problems that appear along the path of history with solutions and law following custom and practice.

Breyer never bought into the idea that the Supreme Court would better function as political appointments with lifelong terms doused in the slimy goo of raw partisanship. Instead, Breyer was an avid student of the law and a respecter of Stare Decisis who worked well with others.

We can only hope to replace him with a jurist offering experience and wisdom and a respect for the court that has recently been so greatly diminished.

President Joe Biden has already reduced the list of candidates to a choice of a woman of color, a campaign promise he is bound to honor in this appointment. That candidate will find little Republican support in the Senate regardless of their credentials.

Republicans have already begun their fight against anyone nominated but they do not have the votes to stop a nominee if all 50 Democratic senators vote to affirm. It should not work this way — candidates should be considered for their credentials and character, not their political party.

Democrats have, for their part, contributed to the disintegration of the confirmation process with their attacks on the character of Brett Kavanaugh, so do not expect Republicans to take a more honorable path with this nominee once named.

Expect personal character attacks, some laughable time spent on Critical Race Theory, the crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, Black people in America have faced some 400-plus years of a little less than social and economic equality.

There will likely be some Republican umbrage over masks and mandates, and a strong dose of the woeful “wokeness” of the nominee, plus a few “radical liberal” darts thrown into the air.

Overall, the process is far more likely to be a mockery of the once responsible process of filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most outrageous damage this ongoing destruction of the court poses is that the court only has the trust of the people when it acts above the smallness of the political moment for the good of the nation. That loss will ultimately be beyond repair if the nominees take on the roles of political hacks.

The Court is as small as its most political member.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.