Karl Moyer

Karl E. Moyer.

Quickly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia came word from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the present Senate will not take up any nominee to replace Justice Scalia, because “the people” should have more input via the election process. Thus, the next president should propose the nominee for the next Senate to consider.

Several considerations here:

First: The Constitution says nothing about “the people’s” input to this process. McConnell is trying to apply a principle the Constitution does not support. ( See below.)

Second: McConnell seems to suggest that any newly elected president will be more responsible in carrying out this task. This claim also has no basis in the Constitution and dismisses the Constitution’s clear mandate to “the President.”

The voters have had their input into the Supreme Court appointment to the degree that the Constitution enables, and the president is in place to do what the Constitution demands. The problem: McConnell doesn’t like the voters’ presidential choice of 2012, so he makes up a false “principle” to diminish the president.

The voters quickly “smelled the rat”: sheer politics! Even Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey goes along with it, serving the political folks, not the people who elected him. The voters get yet more disgusted with the political class.

Third: Then comes the “hedge”: If perhaps a Democrat wins the White House and/or the Democratic Party wins a majority in the Senate, then perhaps we should process Obama’s nominee after all in the present, Republican-controlled Senate. Then we realize what we sensed all along: that there never was a real principle involved in McConnell’s claims. Politics becomes more important than either “principle” or “the people’s interests.” More citizen anger.

Fourth: The same Constitution that says nothing about “the people’s” involvement in such an appointment also excludes direct election of the president by “the people.” The president is chosen by the Electoral College, as per the Constitution, Article II, Section 1 and Amendment XII. Our Founding Fathers feared irresponsible choices the voters might make regarding the presidency and thus kept them at arm’s length in electing the president.

This same “spirit” of the Constitution also puts distance between the voters and the process of filling Supreme Court vacancies. Thus, McConnell calls for the very kind of input our Founding Fathers rather subtly but carefully rejected. Given Scalia’s strict adherence to the Constitution as originally written, McConnell’s claims and actions seem like a blatant insult to the memory of the late justice.

McConnell and some in his party —my party! – are demonstrating some of the very worst behavior imaginable in politics!

Thus do we have Donald Trump on the scene.

What to do?

Don’t just sit there and fume. Visit your local area or county party officer(s). Those folks need to hear from us, lest they lose touch with what “real Americans” are thinking and feeling. If we fail to engage them in communication, then we are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Our government and political party leaders need to sift everything they hear or read into coherent but responsible principles and strategy, sometimes not pleasing each of us at every turn. On the other hand, they do need to respect and serve the voters with all due transparency, no matter the level where they serve. Think, for example, Manheim Township School Board.

We all need to refrain from insisting that ours is “the only right way.” American democracy depends on our willingness to respect others’ opinions and to compromise for the time being, something the Freedom Caucus Republicans in the House of Representatives in Washington needs to learn anew, as do certain obstreperous persons in both parties in Harrisburg.

Compromising for the time being does not mean giving up one’s principles, a lesson many of us and our various representatives in government and politics also need to learn anew. Holding one’s principles in momentary abeyance makes for good, smooth, sincere, responsible government and political party activity.

Sadly, McConnell’s actions vis-à-vis the empty Supreme Court seat merely reflect a broader-based narcissism in America that has more to do with political-party pride than with clear, consistent, responsible government. Many of us have the same problem.

Conversely, in our anger with all of this, we citizens must not become equally guilty of another problem: replacing one kind of irresponsibility with another. That’s what the Founding Fathers feared when they established the Electoral College.

If we wish to maintain a truly great nation, we must be careful, coherent, logical, respectful, self-controlled and maintain the very best interests not merely for ourselves but for all Americans.

 Dr. Karl E. Moyer, who lives in Lancaster, taught music at Millersville University and has served as a church organist and director of music.

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