We live in a strange era of American politics when one’s ideological leanings are thought to reveal more about that person than any other singular characteristic.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” has all but become an overused and unhelpful axiom. Rather, the increasingly divided halves of American politics instead opt for the thrill of kicking sand in others’ faces and running away to snicker about it behind the swing set.
When news broke of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, I was disappointed — but not surprised — to see my leftist friends dancing on his grave and chanting songs of jubilation: “Praise, the sexist bastard finally ate it. Every ruling he made was a personal attack against me.”
I was again not surprised, but more than a little disappointed when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his disciples promised to reject every nomination President Barack Obama puts forward to fill Scalia’s coveted position (taking up the challenge of, “Who can egregiously disrespect the position of president the most?”).
This is one-dimensional politics in its most destructive form. Everyone blindly clings to his own party as if it were their last shred of identity and anyone else who doesn’t agree with them is a lunatic who wants to dismantle the country.
If you’re not pro-life, you hate God. If you’re not pro-choice, you hate women. There is no middle ground and the possibility of negotiation is just about as fictional as my goldfish becoming the next Supreme Court justice.
But somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that inciting blood wars over every contested policy is a sustainable way to run a country, when it’s actually running us into the ground.
I believe that Scalia was a brilliant man. We hold substantially different beliefs, but one of us can support our opinions with sweeping legal rhetoric, and one of us cannot. Scalia was the leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance whose opinions were often directed at a broader audience than those of his colleagues. He was an originalist, but spoke often about the need to diversify the Supreme Court (every current justice is Ivy League-educated and shares relatively similar paths to the Supreme Court).
“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” Scalia said in his 2015 dissent of the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold same-sex marriage. Not quite the words that one would expect from an elite, Bible-wielding misogynist, right? Funny how that works.
And to the Senate Republicans: your values do not supersede your constitutional responsibilities. To think so is to place yourself above your office and above the founders of this nation who wrote compromise into the roots of this democracy, who believed that it would take several different justices to create one united justice and who placed the livelihood of the country above the livelihood of their respective parties.
Maybe it’s time that we all looked each other in the eyes and considered the possibility that we’re wrong. We must understand that the biggest threat facing us right now is our own inability to see our past selves. And if the end goal is lasting influence, the truth will still stand: the party that dies with the most Supreme Court nominations, still dies.
Mackenzie Karbon is a freshman majoring in jazz performance. Her column, Here’s That Rainy Day, runs the third Thursday of each month.
Featured image courtesy Pixabay user kbhall17