As I watched the sights and sounds of the very powerful and much-appreciated protest at the U.S. Supreme Court, I recalled our country embroiled in U.S. Supreme Court controversy before.
I was 18 when the U.S. Senate was very deep in the judicial confirmation process of the former U.S. solicitor for President Richard M. Nixon, Judge Robert Bork, who was ordered to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. Bork was frightening to some. There were those in Congress, for example, who were concerned about what his appointment to the bench could mean for civil rights. I recall the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's words regarding Judge Bork.
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy," Kennedy said. (Bork later stated he felt every word in the statement was false.)
During this entire "Kavanaugh" situation, I keep asking myself, what does the senatorial confirmation of a very controversial U.S. Supreme Court nominee mean for our country? Are many of our citizens justified in having second thoughts about our federal court system? Does the concern about the future of our highest court merit some sort of attempt at reform? Our judicial system is probably the most important aspect of our nation's checks and balances against tyranny. Do not the dangers of partisanship and emotion threaten the very nature of a court that is supposed to operate, solely, within the framework of the U.S. Constitution?
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing was about a horrible act that occurred. Sexual assault is a horrific reality in our world. We are witnessing a political reality in which the GOP is seizing upon a hot-button issue to capitalize on the divisions and fears that already exist in our society. The Trump administration has built its agenda on lies for self-aggrandizement, isolation, xenophobia, and sexism. Many, I believe, share this view. The Kavanaugh episode in our country is the epitome of our current presidential administration. Now, the Republican Party has perhaps a way to become more united than ever.
The Kavanaugh confirmation process seems to have united the party. Despite some differences regarding health care, foreign policy, or the current trade wars, there is now a indication the GOP-dominated House and Senate will forge ahead with a very united front, and a much-energized base.
Vladimir Lenin, once said that power is just lying in the street, and just waiting for someone to pick it up. The GOP has, in fact, seized on a power moment. The GOP now has the highest court in the land to do its bidding. This is the mindset I sense in the country at this time.
When the Supreme Court was in its infancy during the early 1800s, the court's first real test came about. Outgoing President John Adams, up until midnight, appointed many Federalists to positions in the federal judiciary. One man's appointment, however, was denied on orders of recently-elected President Thomas Jefferson.
William Marbury filed his case with the court, and won an audience with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, although sympathetic with their Federalist ally, ruled in favor of James Madison. Secretary of State Madison's denial of Marbury's appointment was upheld because the court held that the U.S. Congress had acted in violation of the Constitution regarding cases where the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction.
I suspect that we, as a nation, will survive this current fear within the federal court system. After all, this nation has been built on overcoming adversity, and prevailing in very dark times. We have lived through eras of Great Depression, political polarization, war, racial divisions, divisions between the haves and have-nots, and a sense, at times, that our nation cannot survive its own destructiveness.
Whatever ultimately transpires in the coming months, I maintain a sense of optimism and hope that our great country will prevail in what seems to be a very broken time. God bless.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator who is currently teaching at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee.