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Opinion: Court picks shouldn’t be about politics
10292017 SCOTUS
The United States Supreme Court building in Washington. - photo by Associated Press

Barring some other explosive controversy yet to emerge from the political tsunami that is the federal government in 2020, it seems likely that two overarching issues will dominate much of the national discourse between now and the presidential election: the nomination of a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the U.S. Supreme Court, and whether President Donald Trump will accept as valid the results of the Nov. 3 General Election.

On the cusp of presidential debates and with less than 40 days to go in the election cycle, those are the hot ticket items that currently have both traditional and social media in a feeding frenzy and Republicans and Democrats drawing lines in the sand that are more like battlefield trenches.

The Supreme Court appointment has representatives of both political parties screaming “hypocrite” as they flip-flop from earlier positions to find one that suits the current situation.

Four years ago, President Barack Obama tried to replace a member of the court during an election year. Democrats argued that the appointment should be made regardless of the timing; the Republican-controlled Senate refused, saying the decision should not be made until after the election.

Now, it’s Democrats saying the right thing to do is wait, and Republicans arguing for immediate action.

The Senate should have voted on Obama’s nomination four years ago, and it should do the same for Trump’s nominee this year. Taking the position that a nominee will not be considered in the final year of a presidential term made no sense in 2016, and it makes no sense now. Nor does the argument that the Senate should wait until “the people make their voices heard” at the ballot box. The people did that when they voted in 2016; those are the voices that deserve to be heard now.

At the heart of the nomination process is a bigger issue that deserves more discussion than it gets. If the purpose of the nomination is to put onto the bench of the Supreme Court a jurist who has displayed a full and thorough understanding of the law and its intent, why must such nominations be cloaked in partisan colors or plotted on a conservative-to-liberal scale? That is the question over which we should be arguing. The Supreme Court demands the best legal mind available, not a jurist who can be pigeonholed according to the political beliefs of a particular president or majority of the Senate.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

The nation has fought heated political battles over nominations to the highest court for decades, and is likely to continue to do so. The issue of whether to accept the outcome of the coming election, however, is new to the modern governmental discourse, and the potential problems inherent in such a quandary are more significant than a nomination to the court.

A refusal to accept the outcome of the election would not only crack the foundation upon which our democratic republic rests but would plant a dynamite charge in the center of such a fissure.

But we aren’t there yet.

Asked hypothetically on more than one occasion whether he would guarantee a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election, the president to this point has basically said, “We’ll have to see what happens.” He has made it clear he does not think the election will be a fair one, expressing time and again the opinion that there will be some sort of massive voter fraud on a scale sufficient to change the outcome, for which he can provide no evidence nor details. To date he has basically said he will keep open his options to challenge the outcome and will not commit to automatic acceptance of the results.

Yes, this election will be different in that there will be more mail-in ballots than is the norm, but even the director of the FBI has said there is nothing to indicate any sort of widespread, coordinated attempt at voter fraud. Mail-in ballots of some sort have been a part of elections for decades; only the volume is different this year. Even the president has used mail-in ballots.

Every form of voting has the potential for fraud, from hand-marked ballots that “disappear” to the possibility of hacking. But it is a huge leap to go from “potential” at the local polling booth to a number significant enough to change the outcome of a national election.

The president’s determination that the election will not be fair is scary enough, but it isn’t a promise that he will refuse to leave office, nor a commitment to lock himself in the White House and dare others to remove him.

The president is often “tone deaf” in his declarations, and rather than endorsing the reality that our government is built around the concept of peacefully transitioning from one presidential administration to the next and promising to do nothing to prevent the same from happening again, he has taken a more provocative stance and hinted at electoral anarchy. You have to wonder if the controversy isn’t intended to just be more jet fuel for the fire that burns so intensely within his core supporters.

A history of holding free elections and shifting from one governmental administration to the next in a peaceful manner is what has separated the United States from many other nations for more than 200 years. If the president truly intends to challenge that concept without legitimate cause, then the future of the republic may well be in danger.

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