There are little nuisances in life; and there are BIG nuisances. The bigger nuisances usually make my heart flutter and my stomach churn: I can’t get my mind off of them and I am constantly angling in my head for ways to avoid them.
There was much about the recent nomination hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor that left me feeling uneasy. (The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote for Tuesday and her confirmation is all but assured.) In hindsight, most of that unease is reactionary and emotional.
I, like most people I’m sure, understand the importance of the Supreme Court Justices. With their lifetime appointments, they have the ability to greatly affect America’s strength and longevity. I am in no way surprised by President Obama’s nomination. For better or for worse, Sotomayor’s confirmation will have little anticipated effect on the Court’s operation and leanings. She is expected to take the ideological place of the same judge whose position on the court she is assuming—David Souter. Souter, though nominated by George H.W. Bush and assumed to be a conservative at the time, was a part of the Court’s left-leaning axis, along with Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer.
Justice Souter’s departure left me pondering whimsically what could have been if only a different president was making the nomination. Evaluating Sotomayor against the hypothetical is what made my stomach feel as if I’d had ten tequila shots last night. But watching the hearings left me with no such nausea: in fact, just the opposite. Because she delivered much of what I expected, I had little frustration, and I was free to evaluate the proceedings on a different level.
What struck me most, and left me feeling both confident and nauseous about the state of the Republic, was the emphasis on our Constitution. This should be no surprise—this is, in fact, the job of a Supreme Court justice.
Many inquisitors cloaked their partisan questions in a Constitutional light; that they felt compelled to do so reinforces the importance of the Constitution in the conduct of our government. No matter what the intent of the question, or the politics of its asker, the very fact that Republicans and Democrats alike paid homage to our Constitution in this manner is evidence of the shared values of Americans from both parties. It reminds me that our shared love for this document and belief in its perpetuation and application serve to unite us as Americans more than divide us as partisans.
But unease churned my stomach when I noted how infrequently Constitutional dialogue is included when other legislation is created. Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) brought a Constitutional emphasis to last year’s Presidential election but his message was lost amidst his screeching, nearly hysterical delivery. Heaven forbid Congressman Paul is ever in charge of anything, but I wish he had a place on the President’s team. Maybe he could hold an honorary position in the President’s entourage. He could just sit quietly in the back of the room until his strident adherence to the Constitution was needed. Whether it should be heeded or not would remain the providence of key decision makers, but it would be nice to know that the Constitution itself was explicitly afforded a hearing in the policy making process.
The daily news, with its Red State/Blue State graphics, and the juxtapositions of FoxNews and MSNBC or NPR and the EIB Network can leave one with the impression that this country is one poorly timed shooting away from another civil war. But the confirmation hearings brought out the very best of the American political system—differing viewpoints on how to achieve a common objective: support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The Sotomayor hearings showed me once again that the American Gospel is that those whom the Constitution serves value it above all else. Too many Sotomayor-like nominees will make me wretch, indeed. But the Court remains in balance for a variety of reasons and I can’t help but think that its current teeter is in keeping with American opinion. So, for today, I am not concerned about Justice Sotomayor. Neither am I thrilled. But, and this is more important, I am optimistic about the American form of government and its viability for the 21st century because its real strength lies in those it serves. Now it’s our job to demand that Congress heed the Constitution as much during the health care debate as they did during the Sotomayor hearings.