If Americans can agree on anything in this election between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it’s this:
We can’t stand the other side. And each tribe loathes the other with absolute passion, as hatred and threats of revenge hang in the air.
This is where newly sworn-in Associate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett comes in. And also President Trump, who kept his promise to the American people to appoint constitutional originalists to the high court.
Because if there’s anything that can keep the republic together, it’s reverence and respect for the Constitution, and Supreme Court justices who don’t shape and interpret the text to satisfy their political passions.
And if anything will tear us further apart, it would be packing the Supreme Court, stripping it of legitimacy and independence, turning it into an auxiliary of the legislative branch, as Democrats are still threatening to do.
Many Democratic politicos are shrieking about Justice Barrett being put on the Supreme Court by a narrow Republican Senate majority so close to the election. What they don’t mention is how Democrats opened the door to all of this. In 2013, a Senate Democratic majority changed long-standing Senate filibuster rules for judicial nominees in order to serve the politics of then-President Barack Obama.
Media cheered Obama and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as geniuses, though some understood that the partisan breaking of precedent would boomerang on them.
And it did. So, if you’re upset about Justice Barrett, thank Obama. Thank Reid.
Over the past eight years or so, you may have lost friends over tribal politics. Or perhaps you just keep your mouth shut, afraid to freely speak your mind as Americans once did, worried about the cancel culture that hovers over all of us like that damned virus.
Whichever side you’re on, you might think of our republic as a living machine, some kind of engine. The tribal anger that fuels politics now makes the engine run too hot, too fast. It’s on the verge of redlining and becoming dangerously unstable.
What’s needed is a governor, like one of those mechanical devices you put on an engine to slow it down and prevent it from blowing itself up.
That’s why we have the Constitution and the Supreme Court of the United States.
Not so the justices could pick up a bat and swing for one side or another, but to call balls and strikes, using the rule book the framers left to us. Many of them weren’t mechanical geniuses. All were flawed. But they loved individual liberty. They understood human nature and that tribalism would rip us apart.
And that’s why I’m thankful that the president nominated Justice Barrett, the legal scholar from Notre Dame and former law clerk of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
It was always the Supreme Court for me, and the federal judges. Conservatives worried about the reach of government and the desire by the Democrats to use the high court to push policy into law that they could not otherwise get through Congress.
Trump, as I have said before, is not the cause of our national acrimony. He contributes, absolutely, as do the Democrats.
Trump is a symptom of what happens when the political center collapses of its own corrupt weight. It happened to the Republicans years ago. They were perfectly behaved gentlemen and gentlewomen. They never used vulgarity. But they helped send thousands of manufacturing jobs overseas and sent Americans off to die in needless and costly wars.
What is moral or gentlemanly about Americans dead, and survivors leaving their limbs on some forgotten dusty roadside thousands of miles away?
It is happening to the Democrats now. The Democratic establishment rigged the party nomination for Hillary Clinton in 2016, they herded the hard, angry left with Russia collusion fantasies that came to nothing. Now they have their establishment candidate in Joe Biden, backed by Wall Street and Big Tech, protected by Twitter and Facebook.
To appease the left that topples the statues in the streets, attacks police and imposes a wholesale rewriting of American history in the public schools, Democratic establishment politicos dangle threats:
About packing the Supreme Court, adding members, which would delegitimize the court and turn it into an auxiliary of the legislature. That’s not exactly toppling a statue of some forgotten abolitionist in a hysterical mob frenzy. But it is about doing greater violence by other means.
And the rest of us? Many of us don’t know our own history even as it is now being changed, deconstructed by politics, in the public schools of our children. Generations of Americans were not taught rudimentary civics. Now we see the result.
Trump is a thoroughly transactional man whose temperament and braggadocio is off-putting. I don’t think there’s a conservative bone in those barbaric Twitter thumbs of his. But as to the Supreme Court and federal judges, he kept his promise. He made his mark.
On the first day of her Senate hearings, Justice Barrett was asked to define what being an “originalist” meant.
“In English that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law,” she said, “and that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
The framers understood. And so does she.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at www.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.