This week we witnessed another step toward the death of the American democracy, as Senate Republicans voted to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. This move allows the hyper-partisanship frequently on display in the House of Representatives and local legislatures across the country to take further hold in the Senate.
The Democrats drew first blood in 2013 by employing the so-called “nuclear option’ for lower court nominees and executive branch appointees. At the time, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell vowed that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell (unsuccessfully) worked toward this goal by the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, a strategy which culminated with their refusal to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Now the Republicans in the Senate have thrust another sword into our democracy by going nuclear to get Neil Gorsuch appointed to the Supreme Court, at the urging of the current President.
How long before the President, incensed that some favored legislation cannot garner 60 votes in the Senate, is urging Senate Republicans to take the same action for legislation, effectively silencing the minority in both houses of Congress forever? If (when) that happens, the President can propose any legislation he chooses, and his acolytes in Congress will pass it on party lines. While the title of this essay may sound dramatic, it is far from hyperbole. Look at history and you’ll see many examples where democratic policies are chipped away gradually, that when taken as a whole, lead to fascism.
The Founding Fathers were smart enough to recognize that power concentrated in one person or group would devolve to tyranny. They designed our Republic with three branches of government to act as a check/balance on each other. This week’s decision in the Senate weakens the ability of the Congress to act as a counterpoint to the Executive branch, and the potential politicization of the Supreme Court that will result from that change weakens the Court’s ability to act as a neutral arbiter of Constitutionality, and check on the other two branches, it’s primary function.
The decline of our democracy did not start with the current president, and if we are not vigilant, will not end with him.