In the next few weeks someone that practically none of us has ever heard of before will become very, very famous.
We will learn about this suddenly famous person’s childhood, their college days, and what they do for fun.
No, this person will not have won the lottery — although, from a professional standpoint, it may amount to the same thing.
This person will be President Obama’s choice to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia’s unexpected death during a hunting trip at an exclusive resort in the West Texas desert would be a seismic event at any time. Scalia, as we have heard again and again, was a “game changer,” “the most influential justice of the last quarter century.”
This influence was based on his rather antique notion that the only way to approach the Constitution was in a powdered wig and buckled shoes. According to Scalia, the Constitution’s meaning must be interpreted based on our understanding of the understanding of those that wrote and ratified it, back in the 1700’s.
This made it difficult for Scalia to read the Constitution in light of many of the social changes, like gay and women’s rights or, for that matter, the abolition of slavery, that were never dreamt of by the Founders.
But this also made him a hero to many on the right, who have been convinced the country’s been going to hell since Pres. George Washington led soldiers to quash the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790’s.
Occurring as it has, at the beginning of a presidential election year, Scalia’s passing becomes a particularly loaded proposition. It provides Pres. Obama with an opportunity to shift the balance of power in the Supreme Court.
This, predictably, has set Republicans’ hair on fire. Scalia’s remains were barely chilled when Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, declared that Pres. Obama should forget about even nominating anyone for the court’s empty seat. Mitch McConnell, we should recall, said he wanted to make Obama “a one-term president” in 2008. Seven years later it seems he’s trying to make that one term — and three quarters.
McConnell is often called an “old school” Republican. But that sort of Republican would have played his cards closer to his star spangled vest. He would have smiled and said he looked forward to the president’s nomination, while being sure to scuttle it behind the scenes — a time-tested and perfectly apt practice.
But that is no longer the Republican way. That way now is more akin to a 3 Stooges food fight.
Obama, of course, is undeterred. As president, he will fulfill his obligation to nominate someone to take that empty seat. And as a Democrat he will doubtless delight in choosing someone of glistening character and impeccably moderate credentials. Someone, that is, bound to embarrass Republicans and expose their high-handed attempt to, in effect, shut the government down for the next year, or more.
This someone is the person who is about to become very, very famous.
Not only will this person find herself at the center of a battle over the future direction of the Supreme Court, she will probably become a shadow candidate for president.
If, as they promise, Republicans block Obama’s glistening, impeccable nominee, they must be made to seem as though they are denying us something we don’t just deserve, but need. Ted Cruz has boasted that he wants to make the election a referendum on the next Supreme Court Justice. He should be careful what he wishes for.