What is the last, best hope of mankind? Is it not a great democracy, governed by the will of the majority? Isn’t it necessary for a free democracy to incorporate a judiciary that evens and leavens the outcomes, brings fairness and hope and compassion to the minority?
If a judiciary is that safety valve of democracy, then our safety valve is being shut down by the Trump Administration. While Trump would not be the first to try packing the courts to interrupt the regular flow of justice, he has been more successful, with the unlimited support of the Senate majority leader, than almost any previous President in doing so.
The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell leading the Republican Senate during the Obama administration, used procedures to completely shut down the attempts of the Obama administration to appoint judges. This included the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. At least 110 lower court appointments were left vacant for Trump to fill. But it is actually worse than that.
Now, under Trump, having appointed that Supreme Court justice, corporate lawyer, Neil Gorsuch, an arch-Conservative at best, Trump had the opportunity to install another, a corporate pro-business, anti-union, anti-clean environment Conservative Brett Kavanaugh. The Trump White House and McConnell have worked tirelessly to appoint judges that all seem to have only one common characteristic…they are anti-abortion, pro-life supporters. They are almost 80% men, almost 90% white and almost all are young. This means that these circuit court judges, with their biases will be around for 30 years or more.
As we have seen with the Republican Senators in the Trump Impeachment trial, they are lackeys, stooges for the rich, Right Wing funders of the Federalist Society, a group designed to do one thing—insure that Republican candidates for judgeships have the proper attitude. They must be followers, not independent thinkers. Whether or not they are qualified seems not to enter the evaluation process at all. After that, they seem to be appointing almost anyone who can breathe, walk and talk–faster than bullets from a machine gun.
This has a real impact on lives. For example, partisan, Trump-like judges can do great damage to the reproductive rights of women, vote down close decisions in cases brought against union-busting techniques, and ignore obvious cases of gerrymandering or prejudicial laws created to suppress votes. The bigger problem is that with McConnell and other Senators blocking the Obama appointments, his last two years in office saw the fewest appointments of federal judges in 50 years, which has resulted in setting the table for Trump’s Neo-Fascist judge installing agenda. To give some idea of the disparity, in Trump’s first two years, Senate Republicans confirmed over 30 appellate judges. In Obama’s last two years, they allowed only two.
This was no accident. When they took control of the Senate in 2014, Republicans basically ended President Obama’s ability to choose and appoint judges. Even before they controlled the Senate, the Republicans had been using some of their more than 400 filibusters, an unprecedented number, to keep some judicial seats vacant. Finally, Democrats were forced to use the so-called “nuclear option’ which was a rule that prevented the use of filibuster to block the appointment of judges and other high administration officials.
Why? In the history of the Senate since the country was founded, only 128 times had federal judges been blocked by filibuster. Sixty-four (64) of those times, half, were in this last session of the Senate during the Obama administration. By changing the filibuster rules, only 51 Democratic Senators would have to vote to lift a filibuster and then could vote on a judge’s appointment. Without the “nuclear option” the Republicans could filibuster and it would take 60 Democratic Senators to break through to begin a vote on a judge or another appointment that required Senate approval. It had been in this way, until the “nuclear option” that the Senate (Neo-Fascist) Republicans completely shut down and obstructed the nation’s agenda as approved by the election of Barack Obama.
“It’s my top priority,” Senator McConnell has said. “If I have a choice between taking up a particular bill and taking up a certain court judge, I take up a certain court judge.” So McConnell, who has no shame about holding up a Supreme Court Justice nomination for an entire year, clearly, from his own words, has no reservations about packing the federal courts with Conservative, Right Wing, corporate judges. Because of this emphasis, McConnell and the Right Wing rubber-stamp, Republican Congress has left more vacancies open in the U.S. court system than at any time in recent memory. This has allowed Trump the opportunity to pack the courts with Right Wing judges.
What does this mean for the American citizen? On numerous occasions, Judge Kavanaugh, now on the Supreme Court, voted with corporations while on the lower court. He ruled in favor of polluters, with large, “dark money” organizations against environmental groups, for corporations against unions, for corporations against individual workers, and for corporations over individual citizens. In the case of Judge Gorsuch, his regional court misfires included a case where he ruled against a truck driver who was fired for leaving the cab of his semi-trailer truck. He had done so in below-freezing weather, to find refuge, on a highway, in a snowstorm, when the gas ran out, the engine had shut down and he was forced to leave the cab or take the chance of freezing to death.
Most Americans want fairness in our courts. They don’t want hugely rich people making television commercials filled with lies and then hiding from legal consequences behind “dark money,” anonymous campaign Super-Pacs. They don’t want truck drivers being forced to choose between potential deadly privation and their jobs. More importantly, they don’t want courts packed with Right Wing applicants with few qualifications and only one single point of view, one, by the way that is unpopular with the majority of Americans, scientists, physicians and women.
Abortion, is not “unborn child murder” as the politically motivated Republican Party would have you believe, tied,as they are, to huge, mostly Southern, Confederate-state, fanatical religious groups with neither scientific nor religious credentials but racist sentiments. A fetus is not a child, unborn or otherwise. And it can be removed as late as 28 weeks with the perfect certainty that no sensory activities, in other words, no pain was possible. Any fetus could be aborted within 20 weeks and it would be impossible for the fetus, or even if you re-name it “unborn child” to feel anything, as there is nothing there, in other words, no sensory connections at all.
/So hiring male judges, on their qualifications as anti-abortion advocates (but not experts in that either) is hardly how we should pack our courts. We should be packing our courts with those who are brilliant, compassionate, fair, honest, curious and morally strong. Not one issue, anti-abortion or pro-corporate judicial hacks.
This is an important issue in the Trump era. If he is re-elected, he will continue to run a strong pro-Fascist, anti-Middle Class agenda. He had already budgeted for over one trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, cuts to Medicare and Social Security disability. What is next? Clearly more tax cuts for the rich and real cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two programs, both easily sustainable, that the billionaire oligarchs in this country want removed. Once the Middle Class is turned into one huge, 250 million Lower Class, the oligarchs that make things in China, sell them here and take enormous profits, will control the government, the military, law enforcement and the judicial system.
This is how Fascist states work. No more protests. No speeches against the President. Eventually, perhaps, obligatory pledges of support for President Trump, not just the Constitution. Unquestioning support for the military and government sponsored military actions around the world, likely under the aegis of fighting terrorism.
We are not far from this. Trump is already doing whatever he can under the current legal system. But, as anyone can plainly see, after the Republican cowardice on display at the Impeachment trials, he believes he has the power already to do almost anything he wants. The fools and hicks and cowards will support him.