Colson: More proof we’re not a democracy anymore
The evidence that the U.S. is no longer a representative democracy is growing daily.
The prime current example of this trend is the refusal by leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress to allow hearings on President Barack Obama’s nomination for a U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia.
The ink wasn’t dry on Scalia’s death certificate before congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declared that there would be no chance for the president to nominate a successor.
McConnell, in what may well be the most cynical statement of the year, said it was up to the American people to vote on what kind of justice would be selected to fill the vacant seat, completely ignoring the fact that America did vote, in 2012, on who should be in charge of any future nominations should seats open up on the court.
And, in case you’ve been living on Mars and cut off from the news, the choice of nearly 66 million U.S. voters was that Obama should keep his job and be in charge of, among other things, nominating replacement justices should openings arise on the Supreme Court.
That, in case you’re still on Mars, is one of the biggest, most important jobs of a U.S. president. There are few duties, if any at all, that have longer-lasting consequences for the nation as a whole than naming candidates to sit on the high court. It’s a lifetime appointment, which means the main disqualifier for sitting justices is death, unless they lose their minds and must be impeached and removed from the office.
Which, I have to say, has not been beyond the realm of possibility for some of those sitting on the big bench.
Samuel Alito, for one, often says things that make me think he’s gone off the rails and should be locked away before he does greater harm to our national weal than he already has.
Clarence Thomas is another, although the fact that he rarely says anything at all has kept him safe for years, ever since his 1991 confirmation hearings when former co-worker Anita Hill accused him of being a sexual predator and repeatedly sexually harassing her at work.
Anyway, now the Republicans’ politically motivated tendency to sit on their ideological thumbs and refuse to act has begun to spread — and alarmingly so.
The latest instance is Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who, in a hissy fit over a legislative vote that did not go his way, decided last week to punish the Legislature as a whole by refusing to swear in a newly elected state senator, Susan Deschambault (D-Biddeford).
LePage, who reportedly locked himself in a closet and refused to emerge for Deschambault’s swearing-in ceremony, has refused to certify the results of the recent special election in which she trounced her Republican opponent by a margin of 16 percentage points.
The governor has idiotically claimed he wants to ensure the Republican loser has a chance to demand a recount. Right.
And this is just one recent example of Republicans determined to ignore and undermine anything political that is not going their way.
Or even something that is going their way, which is how most observers view the nomination of a centrist, bipartisan-endorsed judge such as Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. No less a leading light than U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) once praised Garland as a perfect candidate for a federal court appointment, as have other conservative observers.
At the time, Hatch went on to condemn “playing politics with judges,” a statement that has come back to haunt him in his hypocritical blathering as to why Garland is not fit to sit on the high court.
But the fact that Garland’s nomination comes from Obama is the main problem, though one Republican attributed the obstructionism to his being “a liberal,” which as we all know is nearly as bad as being accused of being a Muslim or of not being born in the U.S. (two earlier Republican-spawned, imbecilic efforts to discredit Obama).
And McConnell has not stopped with Garland. The Kentucky madman’s irrational hatred of Obama has him ignoring any judicial nominee the president comes up with from now on, such as Lisabeth Tabor Hughes, a jurist from McConnell’s home state who was first appointed to the bench by a Republican governor and whom Obama wants for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
And I don’t know how many other nominees are languishing in limbo thanks to Republican rage over having a black Democrat in the White House.
I recall that former President Jimmy Carter told Oprah Winfrey late last year that we no longer live in a democracy but instead are prisoners of an oligarchy — a state controlled by the whims of a small elite class, which in our case means a few rich white guys.
And Carter, among other post-presidential duties, has been to hot spots around the world assessing the democratic niceties of elections in countries once ruled by despots and tyrants.
So he, at least, might know what he’s talking about.
On a recent September Saturday morning, I awoke with an intense yearning to lose myself in the mountains, disconnect from cell service, and rediscover why I decided to call Aspen home in the first place. Standing there, at the Cathedral Lake trailhead, I knew I was right where I needed to be.