by Thomas E. Connors
Americans will wake up this morning to the continuing news coverage of the relatively surprising passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
While most of those watching will acknowledge the significance of the loss of one of nine individuals who comprise one third of the United States government, Conservative First wonders how many will realize the vacuum that Justice Scalia’s death has created. How many will know the true significance that this one man’s death will mean to their individual lives?
Justice Antonin Scalia was the personification of the firewall, which exists between originalist justices who fight to maintain liberty and curb the scope of the government’s intrusion into American lives and activist justices who support the stifling nature of a government destined to asphyxiate the citizenry with its infringement. Understanding how fragile freedom is, it was imperative for him to be a stalwart advocate for liberty. Justice Scalia knew all too well how vital a cause it was for the Supreme Court to uphold the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution in order to maintain the freedom that we take for granted.
It is too soon to tell if the Republicans in the Senate will have the courage to stand up to President Obama and delay any candidate that he nominates to replace Justice Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley both made brief statements last night saying the honor to replace Justice Scalia should be to the next president. It will not be an easy task, however, as the current leadership does not have a successful track record of defiance against a president who shamelessly disregards his role as an equal in the role of governance.
We can only hope that the leadership will do what is best for the country and delay the nominating process until the inauguration of the next president in January 2017, and hope that the 45th president is a Republican.
Unfortunately, history has shown that even having a Republican in the White House does not ensure an originalist justice similar to Justice Scalia. Every Republican president dating back to Dwight E. Eisenhower has nominated a justice whom they thought would uphold original intent has betrayed the president who nominated them.
Perhaps one of the worst examples of this occurred in 1956. President Eisenhower, on advice from his counsel, nominated William J. Brennan, a “moderate” conservative justice to the Supreme Court. Eisenhower, who was running for re-election that year, thought nominating a Roman Catholic northeast Democrat to the Supreme Court would help him secure a second term in the White House. However, shortly after taking his place on the bench, it became apparent that Justice Brennan was quite liberal and would spend the next 34 years on the bench advancing a progressive agenda through judicial activism.
This disturbing trend continued with Justice Blackmun (Nixon), Justice Stevens (Ford), Justice Kennedy (Reagan), Justice Souter (Bush-41), and Chief Justice Roberts (Bush-43). Disturbingly, this is apparently only a trend which befalls Republican presidents; Democrat presidents never see their Supreme Court picks turn conservative.
The pressure on the next president to nominate a justice who will pick up the torch that has fallen by the death of Antonin Scalia is massive. The next president must ensure that the nominee will not only be an originalist when he or she is nominated, but also stay true to their word and be the champion of liberty of the Court that Justice Scalia espoused for nearly 30 years.
Conservatives and originalists are weeping today due to the loss of this lion of the Court. While most Americans will continue their lives uninterrupted, those of us who recognize the significance of Justice Antonin Scalia may one day look back and view his passing as one of the major contributing factors to the death of the republic.
However, this moment might have the opposite effect. Perhaps Justice Scalia’s death will prove to be the catalyst for conservatives in the country to unite and save the nation we love so dearly.
Arrivederci Antonin Gregory Scalia.