Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Till Death Do They Depart

As red rabbit noted a few days ago, had anyone on the left been quoted, as was Ann Coulter, as saying, even in jest, that a conservative Supreme Court Justice should be poisoned, the outcry would have been swift and unrelenting. And yet if there’s one kernel of truth in Coulter’s puerile drivel worth considering it’s that there’s something deeply wrong with a system where justices serve for life, which means if you want to remove someone from the bench it makes a lot of sense to imagine him/her dying. (How about a contest for the best scenarios in which Thomas and Scalia breathe their last? I've got one involving Thomas and a Coke can--just a joke, ya'll.) As I argued last year it’s time to amend the Constitution so that Supreme Court Justices serve 12-year terms on a staggered basis. Every four years the President gets three court appointees. Sure, there’s a lot to debate on this matter, but the key point is we ought to have the debate. (I suspect the idea of W’s having six appointees over his two terms is absolutely horrifying, but had this kind of system been in place I’m willing to bet there’s no way the frat boy would have been elected in the first place—it simply wouldn’t have been close enough to steal.)
The Senate is an obvious venue for this discussion, if only because the sole justification for having such an anti-democratic body as the Senate (how can it be fair that five million folks in, say, Arizona, get as much say as twice their number in Illinois?) is that its putative role is to provide a place for deliberation about matters of governance, shielded from the storms of daily politics—a place for statesmanship. Of course, the last time that the Senate played that role was, well, never. Which is to say, isn’t it time that the 42 Senators who voted “nay” to confirming Alito pointed out that they represent at least as many, if not more, Americans than the 58 who voted “yea,” and that there’s something deeply wrong about a non-democratic body having the power to assist the executive branch in giving a lifetime appointment to someone unacceptable to half the nation's citizenry?
To be sure, there’s no substitute for building a progressive majority, but along the way we need to look at those existing structures that thwart the progressive elements already at work in the polity.

No comments: