What happened to Republican integrity?

Submitted by Darren Oh on Tue, 09/22/2020 - 18:53

As soon as Justice Ginsburg died, the same Republican senators who promised in 2016 that they would never vote on a Supreme Court justice in an election year said they would vote on a new justice in 2020. It would be tempting to say I never believed Republicans anyway, but I do remember a time when I believed Republicans.

I started paying attention to politics when George H. W. Bush was President. I was too young to remember Richard Nixon. My family was devoutly Christian. We subscribed to Focus on the Family and practiced home schooling. We paid cash for our house instead of going into debt. I came to believe that the Republican Party shared my conservative values. Bill Clinton’s election disappointed me. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America excited me. My values have not changed, but I no longer trust Republicans. What happened?

The Republican Party started to lose me with their government shutdown and the open-ended investigation of President Clinton. Republicans no longer seemed content to derive power from the consent of the governed. Rather than patiently winning power by persuasion and elections, they were willing to seize it by tricks and sabotage.

The Republican Party became far more revolutionary than conservative. Revolution sounds attractive because it promises that if you just get rid of what exists now, something better will take its place. Conservatism believes that creating a better future is hard, so it is important to preserve what we have now. Revolutions in England, France, South America, Mexico, the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba were followed by corrupt dictatorships. The American Revolution was a rare and difficult exception. The Republican Party, sadly, has not been an exception.

When Republicans finally got control of the government, they abandoned fiscal discipline. Apparently, their rules were only for other people. Republicans distorted intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, and failed to plan for what would come after the war. Republicans redrew election maps to shield themselves from accountability to voters. Republicans organized efforts to defraud citizens of their right to vote.

By the time Republicans promised never to vote on a Supreme Court justice in an election year, I no longer believed them. I was only mildly surprised when they nominated Donald Trump, a man who had spent his life openly cheating everyone he could, to be president. I was not surprised that President Trump did not keep the promises he made during the election, nor that the Republican Party enabled and defended his lawlessness and corruption while in office.

I miss being able to trust the Republican Party. I am seriously concerned that Donald Trump is using the power to appoint judges to make himself untouchable. Judges appointed by Trump could help him stay in office. They could allow him to exercise power beyond the limits of his office. After he leaves office, Trump could appeal to federal courts to protect him from criminal prosecution and civil litigation.

The idea that a Supreme Court vacancy should be left unfilled during an election year was ridiculous. But if Republicans want to redeem themselves, they can start by demonstrating that their promises mean something. They should apply the same rule to Trump that they imposed on Obama. It is not too late to choose integrity over power. Power can be taken away, but integrity cannot.

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Darren Oh

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 20:27

I sent a version of this message to a number of Republican senators. The only one to reply was Rick Scott. His reply was that if Republicans have the opportunity to choose a Supreme Court justice, it is their responsibility to do so. He claimed to be proud of his service. How he can be proud to trade integrity for power I do not know. The delusion that controlling all three branches of government will release his party from public accountability must be too intoxicating to reject.

Since then, Republicans have tried to change the subject to a supposed Democratic plot to pack the court if Biden becomes president, even though Biden has clearly said he would not want that. If Biden were to rule out adding judges to the court, Republicans could try to capture the court without fear that Democrats would try the same thing after the election. If Biden were to say he might appoint more judges to the court, Republicans would say their claims of a Democratic plot had been confirmed. The truth is that Democrats would not be trying to dominate the court. If Republicans capture the court, adding judges may be the only way to restore its independence.

In attempting to remove the constraints that the court’s independence imposes on their power, Republicans are destroying the legacy of judges that their own party appointed. The Supreme Court has been led by Republican judges since 1953. During that time, it has expanded civil and political rights and environmental protections. The fact that the Republican Party now repudiate so many of those decisions shows how thoroughly they have abandoned their own principles.