You have heard it said that “elections have consequences.” I have stated as much many times on this blog platform and I still believe it to be so very true.
We are seeing how those consequences are playing out in President Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden won the 2020 presidential election and, thus, has been granted the opportunity to find a qualified jurist to take her seat on the nation’s highest court.
This process plays into the notion of “presidential prerogative,” meaning that presidents earn the right to select whomever they desire simply by winning the most recent election.
What you might not remember, though, is that I have carried my belief in presidential prerogative across party lines. I am a dedicated supporter of Democratic Party ideals, but I also recognize that elections that produce Republican presidents also have consequences equal to those that produce Democratic presidents. Accordingly, I recognize that Donald Trump’s election in 2016 entitled him to select the three individuals who currently serve on the SCOTUS.
When President George H.W. Bush selected Clarence Thomas in 1991 to succeed Thurgood Marshall on the high court, I said the same thing. Same with President George W. Bush, when he chose John Roberts to become chief justice and Samuel Alito to an associate justice position.
All of these individuals are technically qualified to serve and the presidents who nominated them were entitled under the Constitution to select them.
I want to revisit this notion because of the hassles that President Biden is getting over his choice of Judge Jackson to join the court. Senate Republicans are digging in for a fight. They belong to a government branch that is entitled under the Constitution to reject or approve any nomination that comes before them. They are fighting Judge Jackson for reasons that escape me.
Joe Biden’s standing as president allows him to find a qualified candidate for a lifetime appointment. He has done so and therefore he deserves to have the individual he has chosen approved by the Senate and then be allowed to take her place on the Supreme Court.
One of the harshest challenges to this prerogative occurred in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly. President Obama selected Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell then decided to play political hardball by denying Garland any confirmation hearing, saying that because it was an election year that the winner of the next election deserved to select the individual he or she wanted for the court.
The winner turned out to be Trump. McConnell’s strong-arming of the constitutional process was a hideous display of politicking and I am one American who never will forgive him for denying a sitting president the chance to seat a qualified jurist on the Supreme Court.
Juxtapose that with the speedy confirmation process that McConnell allowed when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died just weeks before the 2020 election; Amy Coney Barrett received Senate confirmation in a record-setting fashion. Any sign of hypocrisy there? Oh, yes! Absolutely!
Elections always have consequences, indeed … and they should.