The Supreme Court Swindle of 2020
By Alan Resnick
This week’s Republican duplicity completed my evolution from wide-eyed idealist to hard-boiled cynic. My loss of innocence began about 50 years ago, when I was 18. I’m not referring to my carnal innocence, but rather the unraveling of the myth that the truth mattered, that hard work done well would be recognized and rewarded, that fair play counted, and that one should live within one’s means and take responsibility for one’s debts. The unraveling has occurred slowly but surely over the years
The first time I remember feeling that these were not generally held beliefs was when I worked part-time in a grocery store. My dad was an executive for a local Michigan grocery chain and he secured me a job as a bagger at a nearby store. He told me that the managers had been advised to give me no special treatment just because I was a vice president’s son. And he warned me to not try to not take advantage of my privilege as well.
On my second day on the job, I was asked to collect the shopping carts from the parking lot and bring them back into the store. It was a rather mundane, basic task, and my philosophy was to accomplish it as quickly as possible. When I came back in after rounding up the last batch of carts, one of my coworkers came up to me, introduced himself, and told me: “You’re in the union. Working harder or faster won’t get you anything. It’s all about seniority.”
This bit of advice put me into a somewhat uncomfortable position. I did not want to alienate my coworkers, but neither did I want to disappoint my father or incur his wrath. I opted for working hard, even though it would have absolutely no impact on my wages or promotability. It didn’t make me terribly popular with some of my coworkers, but the managers loved me, so much so that they encouraged me to enter the election for union steward for the store.
My innocence took a second hit when I went to work in human resources for what is now a Fortune 250 manufacturer and distributor of medical and hospital supplies. College and graduate school provided me a strong education and reinforced the idea of a meritocracy. Regrettably, it did not provide me an education in organizational politics. And, coming from a family of introverts, I did not take to schmoozing, glad-handing, and obsequiousness like a duck to water.
It became eminently clear that there was a hidden category on the organization’s annual performance appraisal form – “playing the game.” It might have been labeled as “getting along with others” or “interpersonal skills,” but it was definitely a factor in one’s overall evaluation, and seemed to carry as much if not more weight than technical competence, organizational skills, or project management.
I lasted about 15 years in the corporate world, and I look back and consider my career there successful. But I certainly did not advance as rapidly as some of my peers who played the game well. And there were other peers who tried to play, lost, and were terminated. My personality, education, and upbringing enabled me to understand the rules of the game and the important players enough to navigate through the system, but not enough to truly compete within it.
A third significant blow to my innocence occurred one day when my wife, who runs her own window treatments business, came home and described a networking meeting she had attended earlier that morning. Her group had accepted a new member, a bankruptcy attorney. The attorney was given some time to introduce himself to the group and share the details of his practice. He essentially told the group that he used the bankruptcy laws to help get folks out from under consumer debt, and shared some stories of clients he had helped get out of massive financial obligations while still keeping their purchases. According to my wife, he made it sound that it people who overextended themselves financially were foolish to try to pay down what they owed.
I remember thinking to myself, “So, he’s basically saying that people who pay their bills and take their financial obligations seriously are just suckers and chumps.” It was always a source of personal pride that I only bought what I could afford and paid my bills on time, but this presentation left me feeling that mine was the minority viewpoint.
My innocence further eroded during the time that President Obama was selling the Affordable Care Act (or ACA) to the American public. He kept stating that: “If you like your current plan, you can keep it.’’ That sounded fine by me, as my wife and I had selected a plan that gave us a lower annual premium in exchange for a higher deductible. We were both in good health and made a conscious choice to accept this trade-off.
It turned out that there was only one small problem – our plan was cancelled, and we went from paying about $3,500 in annual premiums to over $12,000 per year. I voted for Obama twice and probably respect him even more since he left office. But to this day I feel that what he said about the ACA was an outright lie. And had it been possible for him to seek a third term, I would not have voted for him again.
And the myths of my youth have been completely shattered by the way many Republican senators have responded to the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is in stark contrast to their reaction when Justice Antonin Scalia died.
Justice Scalia passed away on February 16, 2016, or 268 days before the upcoming presidential election. On March 16, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia. Four days later, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told ABC News, “The American people are in the middle of choosing who the next president is going to be. That next president ought to have this appointment.” McConnell blocked Merrick Garland from having a hearing before the Senate, and Obama was not allowed to fill the vacancy.
A Mother Jones article published on September 18 contains quotes from 17 Republican senators still in office who supported McConnell’s position back in 2016. One of them is Lindsey Graham, the current chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will oversee confirmation hearings of the next Supreme Court justice. Back in 2016, Graham was quoted as saying: I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination."
Graham doubled down on this stance in an October 8, 2018 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of the Atlantic magazine: “Now, I’ll tell you this. This may make you feel better, but I really don’t care. If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election. And I’ve got a pretty good chance of being the judiciary.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died merely 45 days before this November’s presidential election, so one would think that the same logic should surely apply about waiting to filling her seat until after the election. One would be very wrong.
Within hours of her death on September 18, Senator McConnell pronounced that whoever Trump nominates will be given a Senate confirmation hearing. He attempted to justify his change of heart based on the fact that President Obama was a lame duck and that we now have a Republican President and a Republican-controlled Senate.
And, on August 2 of this year, Sahil Kapur of NBC News quoted Graham as saying: "Yeah. We'll cross that bridge. After [Brett] Kavanaugh, the rules have changed as far as I'm concerned. "We'll see what the market will bear if that ever happens." But Graham never mentioned the Brett Kavanaugh hearings back on October 8,, 2019 when talking with Goldberg, an interview that occurred after the Senate hearings had taken place. (Justice Kavanaugh had been confirmed by the Senate on October 6.) In fact, earlier in this interview, Senator Graham talks about how he felt that Justice Kavanaugh had been mistreated in the hearings.
I was sure that many of the 15 other Republican Senators who spoke out against nominating a Justice in the midst of a presidential election would renounce the blatant hypocrisy of McConnell and Graham. Nope. Not one mumbled a word. Only two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, stated that they are against nominating a new Justice during the upcoming election. And they were not among those who went public with their views in 2016.
Many held out hope that Mitt Romney of Utah would be of a similar mindset to Collins and Murkoski, as he was the only Republican Senator who voted against Trump’s impeachment. But Romney announced this week that he was comfortable going ahead with the nomination, so it certainly looks like the Republicans have enough votes to confirm a new Justice.
The question of whether the nomination would occur before or after the Presidential election was answered on Friday, when it was reported that Trump intends to nominate deeply conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, an opponent of abortion and a favorite of the religious Right. His haste to fill the seat was no secret: Trump has stated that he wants a ninth justice because he is planning to contest the validity of mail-in ballots should he lose. While totally despicable and morally bankrupt, give him props for having the decency to tell us he’s going to cheat.
McConnell, Graham and their lackeys blatantly lied to the American public back in 2016. I’m not so naïve as to assume that politicians don’t shade the truth to suit their needs and those of their audience. But I do believe that there is a significant difference between shading the truth and claiming that black is white, up is down, and Monday is Thursday.
That’s not to say that I won’t vote in the upcoming election. I absolutely will. But it won’t be with the expectation that things will improve, but rather in the hope that things will not get even worse.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.