When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement at the end of this coming July news media, politicians, and pundits immediately began to debate the pros and cons that will swirl around his possible successor. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews commented that if the Democratic leadership doesn’t block Trump’s nominee there will be “hell to pay.”
That was an interesting choice of words. I was wondering if Chris believes in a literal place of eternal torment or was he just being metaphorical.
When Harry Truman ran for reelection it was common for politicians to stump their campaign at whistle stops. As Truman finished one such speech from the rear passenger car of the train he was on a man in the crowd yelled out “give ’em hell Harry,” referring to his political foes in Washington. Truman replied, “I don’t give them hell. I tell them the truth and they think it’s hell.”
So I think the “hell” Chris Matthews is referring to is the truth that President Trump will be making the nomination of Justice Kennedy’s successor. This is why many voted for Trump, not because he was a pillar of morality, but they feared Hillary Clinton’s nominees to the high Court if she had won.
A history lesson…
But before advocates of religious liberty and nascent life begin to shout hallelujah, I think a history lesson is in order.
Former President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell. Bork’s bid to serve on the Supreme Court was contentious from the start. When his nomination ultimately failed Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy.
It is common practice for s Supreme Court Nominee to make the rounds meeting privately with each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to be vetted. When Kennedy made those rounds Ted Kennedy (no relation), and Jesse Helms both served on the committee. Ted was an ultra-liberal; Jesse was an ultra-conservative.
After meeting with each, both gave their full-throated support for Kennedy’s nomination and the rest is as they say “history.” I wrote at that time that Anthony Kennedy had missed his calling; he should have been a politician and not a judge.
A conservative president does not always mean a conservative judge.
Over time Justice Kennedy has been the pivotal vote between conservatives and liberals in a number of precedent setting decisions. Probably the most controversial was the majority opinion he wrote in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriages.
Though the conservative President Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy to the high court, he wrote the majority opinion in one of the most liberal decisions to ever come from the Supreme Court. What some are cheering and Chris is fearing may not turn out like they think. Nominees of a conservative president do not ensure conservative opinions.
For the believer, our ultimate hope for justice is not centered in the outcomes of decisions made by any human government, because the real Supreme Court does not convene down here. “Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord,” Proverbs 29:26.