I did not vote for Donald Trump last November. That may come as a surprise to those who read this blog. Don’t worry; I didn’t vote for Hillary either.
As a Constitutional libertarian, I felt that Trump was insufficiently solid on issues pertaining to our foundational legal principles. I know he released a list of conservative judges last year whom he was considering for the vacant Supreme Court seat, should he be elected. It was an impressive list, no doubt. But given Trump’s mercurial nature I gave it little thought. He could nominate anyone he damned-well pleased. Imagine my sigh of relief yesterday when Trump tabbed 10th Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch’s credentials are impeccable. Even his most ardent opponents will concede that. He is, in the mold of Scalia, an “originalist.” That is to say, someone that not only looks at the words that comprise our laws, but tries to interpret their original meaning. To me, this is the only way to properly interpret law. Hell, we should have “originalists” all over the place. What good is a law if you can assign modern-day definitions to words and phrases that were written centuries ago? By doing that you can theoretically make any law mean any thing you want it to mean.
Gorsuch’s press conference last night made me feel positively giddy. “It is the role of judges to apply,” not alter, the laws written by Congress, he said. YES!! In a legal review last year, he wrote that “judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views.” Slam-freaking-dunk!
Of course such interpretation is anathema to modern-day progressives who see the Constitution as a barrier rather than a solid foundation. The Supreme Court has been their vessel to implement much of the social change they so covet. The other two branches have acted (as they should) as a check to each other on implementing significant changes. The high court, though, requires only five votes to usher in significant swings.
When I ponder the number of 5-4 votes we’ve had in the Supreme Court on several crucial issues over the years, it makes me shudder. I have said many times the fact that the Heller decision (on gun rights) was 5-4 mystified me to no end. We were this close to losing what I consider basic Constitutional protections.
It’s been kind of a running trope over the years to bank on the “swing votes” on the Senate—how would Roberts and Kennedy rule? The determination of basic Constitutional protections should NOT come down to one or two people—but it does. God help us, it does.
I understand Democrats being reflexively pissed about this. This was supposed to be THEIR pick. When Merrick Garland’s nomination was held up by the Senate last year I’m sure many figured, “big deal. Once Hillary’s elected we’ll get an even BETTER nominee.” Alas, as I have been told many times over the past eight years, elections have consequences. And it is deliciously-satisfying that because of the unmitigated arrogance of former Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, who introduced the “Nuclear Option,” Gorsuch’s appointment is a fait accompli.