The fallout over Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s death has been rather predictable. The Party of No in Congress has vowed to block any of President Barack Obama’s nominations, promising to confirm only a nomination from the next elected president. We wonder, though, if a Democrat wins the presidency, will the GOP continue to obstruct any nominations for another four years? What if Donald Trump wins? What possibilities have these Republications actually considered? Just how short-sighted are these elected officials? Obama has stated that he will do his presidential duties as expected of him and will shortly nominate his choice for the Supreme Court. While certain Republicans in Congress continue with their bullying tactics, their overtly disrespectful attitude toward the president, their immature proverbial stomping around and willingness to work with others only if they have the president they want — and not the person voters nationwide have selected twice — we can’t help but wonder if there is any chance these stubborn Republicans can learn from the man who was in lockstep with many of their principles, Justice Scalia.
Despite the discord between the legislative and executive branches of government, the judicial branch, specifically the Supreme Court, is a bit more autonomous and not dependent on the other two. But the Supreme Court justices have distinct and often opposing points of view, with one or two justices who act as that crucial swing vote in controversial cases, most notably Justice Anthony Kennedy. There is no denying that Scalia could have been the poster child for conservative ideology, but he wasn’t the most polarized on the bench, despite some of the outrageous rulings he has made on controversial social issues in the last couple of years. Judging from his record, using the Martin-Quinn score of judicial ideology developed by Andrew D. Martin (University of Michigan, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts) and Kevin M. Quinn (UC Berkeley School of Law), Scalia was less conservative than Justice Clarence Thomas for his entire tenure. Between 2011 and 2014, he was less conservative than Justice Samuel Alito. And what is rather surprising, left-leaning Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was generally diametrically opposed to Scalia, actually cared for and appreciated her formidable colleague. Shortly after his death on Saturday, she wrote a tribute to him, speaking of their professional relationship: “Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’ — and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. … It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.”
While we understand that some threats are really empty promises, that not all Republicans in Congress share the opinions of some of the more outspoken (such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who have declared their intentions to obstruct Obama’s nominations), we can surely hope that the Party of No can learn something from the recently deceased and how at least one of his colleagues felt about him. If two opposing Supreme Court justices can find a way to work together and even respect one another, why can’t our elected officials?