The Broken Race for the Broken Supreme Court

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg/AP featured image
ADDS HELD AT THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF MEDICINE U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits onstage as the third speaker of the David Berg Distinguished Speakers Series, during an event organized by the Museum of the City of New York with WNET-TV held at the New York Academy of Medicine Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in New York. NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg led a question-and-answer session about Ginsburg’s quarter-century on the Supreme Court, and about her life. (AP Photo/Rebecca Gibian)

 

On Friday evening, I was out ending a tremendously exhausting week by grabbing a couple of frozen drinks to bring home and finally relax for the weekend.

While sitting in the drive-thru line waiting to order the drinks, my phone started buzzing. A lot. Finally, I picked it up, satisfied that the line wasn’t going to move an inch while I was on my phone. You can probably guess what all the notifications were about.

Folks, I am not going to lie to you here. My first reaction wasn’t a moment of silence, or a tweet praising Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a trailblazer. It was a text to a friend in the political world: “I can’t do this. Not again.”

And honestly, despite knowing the balance of the nation’s highest court is at stake, and knowing that this is a fight that was inevitable given her health, that is still the general feeling I get whenever this conversation comes up. I am tired “af”, as the kids would say, and it’s only going to get more exhausting.

Republicans were quick to express their sympathies while many Democrats were quick to make demands of President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Senate. There were people who were threatening riots and violence. There were others celebrating. It was total madness, and frankly the kind of behavior we should be above.

But, nope. We as a society have focused all of our attention on the importance of the Supreme Court, adding more importance to it than there need be, really, and making it the final battleground of all political issues (except, you know, when they make the “wrong” decision so you keep arguing over those supposedly-settled battles). We have become insanely driven by the idea that the other side is the enemy and that they must be defeated in court for a victory to have any real meaning.

And what is it that we’re fighting over, here? It’s a broken race for a broken court. We are, as a society, so dependent on lifetime political appointments because we have given up on things like legislating and negotiating. We would rather allow a group of nine people to tell us what is right and what is wrong than fight in the legislative chambers to get the most done for as many people as possible.

The Supreme Court’s job is to tell us what is constitutional and what is not, with the great irony being that the power to do so has no constitutional grounds whatsoever. It was invented by the Court early in its history, and ever since — though particularly in the modern era — we have deferred so much to it that we have created the power it wields. Power the Constitution never originally gave it.

The system, from our political values to our political system, is broken. That, in turn, has broken the branches of government and thrown out the balance of power the Constitution built.

It is sad that everyone on both sides was quick to immediately think of the impact Ginsburg’s death would have on the Supreme Court and the 2020 Presidential race (and yes, I am lumping myself in with that crowd). It shows how broken we all are that we couldn’t really take a weekend off and pray for Ginsburg’s family. We jumped straight into the demands, the ambitions, and the analysis of the situation. It doesn’t feel right. It feels like we are irreparably shattered as a society and it’s difficult to imagine how we can come back together in the future.

Joe Cunningham



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