Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: Matching the supreme pettiness of old white men

Donald Trump nominating to the U.S. Supreme Court a judge who colleagues and legal observers characterize as a stricter constructionist than Antonin Scalia is the first relief I’ve felt since the election. When the president summoned his finalists to the White House for a Sashay/Shante ceremony, a part of me was expecting Trump, whose lone political skill is showmanship, to announce that instead of either of the two named candidates, his nominee for the high court would be Mills Lane, who showed “tremendous” poise and jurisprudence refereeing the match in which Mike Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

With every moment of Trump’s first three weeks as president trapped between incompetence and insanity, the selection of 10th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch was surprisingly reassuring, even if Gorsuch believes corporations have a more legitimate claim to personhood than women and free blacks (which is what I assume it takes for someone to be to the right of Scalia, constitutionally – a notion yet to be disproven by Gorsuch’s judicial record).

Gorsuch’s views on LGBT or reproductive rights are irrelevant to me, since I doubt he will get a chance to consider those issues before arbitrating constitutional crises that determine the survival of our republic. Though Gorsuch may be a conventional pick, the man who picked him remains delusional and dangerous, so perhaps we could do worse than having a new Supreme Court justice who believes the constitution is more static than the Bible (the Washington Post reports Gorsuch attends “a notably liberal church”).

Despite his archaic judicial philosophy, Gorsuch’s pedigree and reputation inspire a hope within me of a conservative willing to shush Trump’s anti-democratic rantings, as the nominee did in calling Trump’s attacks on judges as “disheartening” and “demoralizing;” although one of the most frightening aspects of the past 18 months is how many conservatives who once declared Trump appalling have since revealed themselves as appeasers. Still, I’ve always accepted that elections have consequences, and in that context, Gorsuch does not feel cruel and unusual.

The above might be considered the liberal case for Gorsuch, except I also know that stealing has consequences. No matter how upstanding and qualified he may be, Gorsuch ought to be treated like the most significant theft-by-receiving defendant our judicial system has ever tried.

If conservatives can pretend there’s a rule (or even implication) that presidents can’t name a Supreme Court nominee in the final year of their term, Democrats need to pretend that presidents who didn’t win the popular vote are prohibited from making lifetime appointments. It’s time to be as petty as those who rode petulance to congressional majorities and the White House.

Progressives’ powerlessness in Washington makes stopping Gorsuch’s ascension nearly impossible, but the next president of the United States will be the senator who devises political guerrilla warfare in defense of our constitution, and to avenge the irreverence defecated upon our last president. The GOP having its first nominee for the seat confirmed would be a disgusting continuation of this country’s defining historical narrative: white men stealing with immunity.

Pettiness has strategic value beyond revenge, as the Supreme Court is the withered strand that keeps otherwise decent conservatives attached to the Trump train, folks who would be so gluttonously satisfied having Gorsuch on the Supreme Court that they would continue to ignore the ominous expressions of Trump’s (white) nationalism. These conservatives will be irate at the obstructionism it takes to stop Gorsuch, but instead of having cover to focus on his more extreme schemes, Trump will have more time to prove what an incompetent impersonator of a president he is, and an eight-member court can hear the first constitutional crisis.