Craven, Contemptible, Political Hackery

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craven: having or showing a complete lack of courage
contemptible: not worthy of respect or approval
political: involving, concerned with, or accused of acts against a government
hack: a person who works solely for mercenary reasons
–ery: the practice of
–Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Let us be clear. When Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren as she attempted to read from a document that had been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and kept out of the Senate record, they showed their true colors as craven, contemptible, political hacks. Under the cover of Senate Rule 19, using the same tortured, twisted hermeneutical logic that led him to think he and his party were not acting against the US Constitution when they stole a nomination to the Supreme Court under President Obama, McConnell trashed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights on the Senate floor.
Fortunately, this nonsense only had authority on the Senate floor, and Senator Warren was able to continue to read a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 by Coretta Scott King in opposition to the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. If it is true that past is prologue, the concern then, as if is now, was that Sessions would not uphold voting rights for all citizens of the United States.
Coretta Scott King said in her letter:
“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
In a written statement to the Judiciary Committee, King testified to “politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions” on the part of Sessions and “. . . indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws.”
Unfortunately, her words still resonate in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act with a number of states instituting laws that make it more difficult for citizens to vote, especially minorities, the poor, and the elderly. The current president of the United States has made unfounded claims of voter fraud that only feeds the myth that widespread voter fraud exists and that laws that actually restrict legal voting are necessary.
King wrote of the importance of the Voting Rights Act to our democracy:
“The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States.” She wrote about voter intimidation and Sessions’ participation in it:
“The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate Black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.”
She wrote of the long way we as a nation have to go “before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls.” She says further:
“Blacks, Hispanics, Native American, and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at every level of government in America. If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.”
More than thirty years ago, then chair of the judiciary committee, Strom Thurmond, wanted to keep Coretta Scott King’s words out of the Senate record. In February, 2017, Mitch McConnell tried and failed to do the same thing. After he silenced Senator Warren, some of her male Democratic colleagues completed the reading. He did not silence them. In the end, Coretta Scott King’s words were heard.
Political pundits are reading this event within the context of presidential politics. Are the Democrats still angry about the outcome of the 2016 election? Is this the first step by Senator Warren on the road to a presidential run in 2020? Neither of these questions gets to the heart of the matter.
Mitch McConnell and the Republicans trashed the Constitution when they refused to give Judge Merrick Garland a vote. They disrespected the will of the 2012 voters and of President Obama, who not only won the Electoral College, but who also won the popular vote. McConnell claimed even before he knew who President Obama would nominate that the nomination ought to wait until after the 2016 election so that the people could decide who ought to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. However, this is not what the Constitution says:
Article II Section 2
“He [the president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
There is nothing here that says the president shall not nominate a Supreme Court justice in the last year of his term. The Senate has a duty to advise and consent. Obstruction is not its duty. Orrin Hatch did advise President Obama to nominate Merrick Garland then he refused to consent, cravenly following Mitch McConnell’s contemptible lead. They, along with every Republican in the Senate, broke their oaths.
The Constitution says:
Article VI
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers; both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any office or public Trust under the United States.”
McConnell and his Grand Obstructionist Party craven political hacks broke their oaths to support the Constitution. Now they want to give the nomination they stole to a minority president. “Let the people decide” McConnell said. The people did decide, and the majority of the people did not want Donald Trump to make this nomination Again, I say that a majority of voters voted for President Obama whose final Supreme Court nominee was not even given the courtesy of a hearing, while now a majority of the American electorate watches a minority president fill the seat.
The Democrats in the Senate ought to refuse to vote for ANYONE who is not Judge Garland. And, if the Republicans change the rules so that they can approve a justice with a simple majority, so be it. The filibuster is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.
I would say that McConnell and his bunch ought to be ashamed. However, one cannot shame individuals who have no honor. This is a painful thing to write because I consider myself an American patriot, but it is the truth. We have descended so deep into the partisan political morass that We the People do not care that our representatives do not give a hoot about their duties under the Constitution. They do not care about the guarantee of free speech found in the Bill of Rights. After all, Elizabeth Warren was not shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater. She was reading words of witness about a senator who was not a senator at the time the words were written about him who wants a job outside of the Senate. Rule 19 does not apply.
Again I say that we get the government that we deserve. These people break their oaths to support the Constitution and we reelect them to office. Witness the good people of Iowa sending Chuck Grassley back to the Senate after he, as chair of the judiciary committee, failed to give Judge Garland a hearing. A minority of voters have installed a man in the White House who seems to be completely out of his depth, if his first two weeks in office are any indication.
The founders trusted the people to be a check on their government. It is our right, it is our duty to resist the people in office who ignore the Constitution because they do not have the courage to stand for what is right even if it means they disappoint their donors and lose the next election.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”