It’s been a horrible week in politics, and it just keeps getting worse. Now, I don’t entirely agree with my colleague Terrell J. Starr’s assessment from yesterday.
I don’t think we’re fucked—yet. But if we are collectively watching the movie of America on a date with Authoritarianism, then they just finished dinner, canceled Uber and are heading up to the hotel room for a few more “drinks.”
We all know where this is going.
Donald Trump will appoint a maniac, right-wing justice who will be 15 minutes out of law school, which means he or she will serve on the bench for 50 years, help end abortion rights and civil rights, but, most important, will rule—sometime around 2019 or 2020—that the president has the right to PARDON himself (which was always the endgame). Right now I don’t care about what’s coming; I’m mad about how we got here.
In a little over a week, the Supreme Court upheld voter purges, effectively defunded unions and upheld the white nationalist Muslim ban. After all of that, Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy looks around at everything Trump has done, says “I’m good with this” and chucks the deuces to his lifetime appointment.
There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I’ll tell you now, all of your faves are problematic. However here are the top five people to blame for our current crisis of constitutionality, in descending order of terribleness.
5. President Barack Obama
Blame rating: “What had happened was”
I know nobody wants to hear this; I know that Obama, Ava DuVernay and Blue Ivy are the sacred cows of black folks and liberals in America. Nevertheless, some of this falls squarely on the shoulders of our former “father in chief” (I know firsthand about Barack backlash because I tweeted about this).
Way back in the optimistic year of 2016, I wrote that once Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t even hold hearings to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election, essentially trying to steal a Supreme Court justice, Obama should have just put someone on the court. And he wouldn’t do it. Obama naively believed that the Republicans wouldn’t be willing to handicap a third of the federal government just to spite him.
In 2016 I wrote:
Obama’s refusal to take advantage of Congress being at recess by appointing someone to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia without its approval is one of the most cowardly, embarrassing and shameful abdications of power of any president in American history. And, without a doubt, history and Americans should judge him harshly for it.
Don’t be confused; it was well within Obama’s authority to put someone on the bench. A rare quirk in congressional scheduling gave Obama about a week to make a special recess appointment for the Supreme Court. He should have picked one of the half-dozen women or people of color available.
The appointment would have stayed on the court until 1) Republicans voted the person out, which would have been a real mess during an election year (especially if it were a black woman on the bench); or 2) until the end of the calendar year, in which case, whoever the next president was would have replaced the justice (even if Hillary Clinton had won, she would have been under no obligation to keep Obama’s recess pick).
I hear you Obama defenders now. You Obama hater! Trump won, so Merrick Garland would’ve been gone by the end of 2016 and we’d still be here! That’s true, but there were two critical decisions—United States v. Texas, which was about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; and Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which was about union fees—that ended in a 4-4 tie in 2016.
A tie on the Supreme Court is basically a judicial shoulder shrug that leaves the lower court ruling in effect. If an Obama appointee had been on the court, those rulings would have gone 5-4, and Trump would have had more trouble dismantling DACA today, and this week’s rulings about employee union fees would have been tougher to pull off, given that it would have been reversing a very recent precedent. So yeah, I put some blame on Obama.
4. Hillary Clinton
Blame level: Coulda, shoulda, woulda
I give Hillary Clinton credit. She had to face off against a biased press, her husband’s baggage, a Democratic infrastructure decimated at the state level after years of neglect by Obama, Russian intervention, and she still won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Unfortunately, the popular vote wins you support, but it doesn’t win the White House, and like Brandy told us, “Almost Doesn’t Count.”
Clinton lost the election. And ultimately that falls on her well-padded shoulders and her staff. It’s not Sen. Bernie Sanders’ fault; it’s not those annoying, idiotic Jill Stein voters; it’s not even Obama’s fault. Clinton lost against a beatable candidate. Which means she bears some responsibility for us getting Neil Gorsuch, and for whatever nightmare person Trump selects to replace Kennedy.
3. Mitch McConnell
Blame level: [Shaggy voice.] “It wasn’t me”
One hundred years from now—after the devastation of the Trump administration, the Alt-Handmaid’s Tale presidency of Mike Pence and, finally, the Founding Fathers’ Purge presidency of Don Jr. - when America finally comes to its senses from our soon-to-be-dystopian nightmare and reflects on how the hell all of this happened—there will be one name that stands out.
Patient zero for the cancer that ate away at American democracy will be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell’s constant obstructionism, commitment to white nationalist policies, and willingness to destroy any norms or procedures of American democracy, while at the same time claiming innocence or, worse, playing the victim, have done more to ruin our union in the last 12 years than anything done by any other sitting politician.
So why isn’t he No. 1 on this list?
McConnell had help. Yes, he refused to hold hearings for Garland, paving the way for Gorsuch on the bench and whatever 37-year-old maniac Trump is about to pick, but other people had to play along. Democrats had to fail to see what he was up to. Republicans had to go along with him and vote the way he wanted. The press had to cover how his behavior played “politically” instead of addressing the legitimacy of McConnell’s actions. So he’s only partially to blame. His biggest co-conspirators might be the next group.
2. White Women
Blame level: Rosanne on Ambien
Fifty-three percent of white women in America voted for a man who repeatedly cheated on his wife, was accused of raping his ex-wife, routinely sexually harassed women, was caught on tape bragging about a sexual assault and said he believed that women who get abortions should be punished. And y’all voted for him anyway.
I am so tired of the occasional news story about white female Trump voters who “regret” their decision, or can’t understand why their health care costs are skyrocketing, or are amazed when their husbands get deported. You didn’t regret voting for a habitual sexual predator and accused rapist—you’re just regretting it now that it’s hurting you. They must’ve been on that Ambien in 2016.
So in 2020, when newest Supreme Court Justice Corey Lewandowski pens the majority decision ruling that abortions are a “state issue” and women have to start sneaking across the border from Kentucky to Ohio for contraception and prenatal care, it’s all your fault. This is what you voted for.
1. Donald Trump
Blame level: Benedict Arnold
Ultimately, in addition to the white nationalism, the border crisis, the pending financial crisis (it’s coming), the environmental crisis (it’s coming), the erosion of our national image and the trade wars, among fifty-eleven million other things, it’s Trump’s fault we’re about to get one of the worst justices in Supreme Court history. Just remember all the screwup it took for us to get here.