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With liberty… and justice for all

July 19, 2009

Last week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing was not just to showcase the next justice to the Supreme Court of the United States (potentially), it illustrated how important the actual process is to American democracy.  Within the halls, and the walls of the Hart senate building, 19 United States senators prepared a final examination for the presumptive justice, judge Sonia Sotomayor.  Senators from both parties prepared their texts with questions they deemed would carefully and thoroughly scrutinize her record as a judge.  And in so doing, we were able to witness the fairness and power of democracy.  It’s application enables us all to enjoy the greatest liberties ever envisioned by mankind.  Now while I did appreciate witnessing democracy as a living construct, I was struck by a few things during the hearing:

Senator Lindsay Graham said to judge Sotomayor that “elections have consequences,” and that “President Obama won, and that ought to matter.”  While there is truth to those statements, the very fact that he mentioned that lends a falseness to the hearing itself.  While it would be naive to believe that- barring a surprise, the nominee would be confirmed- there should be some sense of belief in the system of checks and balances.  Elections do matter but not at the expense of the abrogation of duty to the people  and your country.  Senator Graham had no illusions about preventing the confirmation, and his questioning last week seem to prove that.  That leads me to point two:

Was this all real?  We had a nomination for one of the most coveted positions in the world.  Only 110 people have worn the black robes on capital hill.  Sonia Sotomayor is in line to be the first Hispanic, and just the third woman ever to do so.  This was a tremendously important point in our history.  Yet it seemed so mechanical and contrived.  Questions were often repeated, and no ground was actually broken in regards to her actual record as a judge.  I suppose there was really no drama inherent in the proceedings.  After all, elections do matter, right? And democrats do have iron-clad control of the Senate. You still had a bunch of senators that were very measured in their questioning, so as not to draw the ire of Hispanic-Americans in their districts.  You also had an over-prepared nominee, who seemed so practiced  and prepared, she emoted as mechanically as Wall-E.  There is nothing wrong with being prepared, but it just seemed as if she was going through the motions.  That may have been a result of her already realizing that this hearing was just a formality.

Our democracy is a beautiful construct, ever malleable to fit our times.  It’s foundation though is as concrete and stable as ever, and that is why we thrive today.  Even if our politics fail to live up to that standard, we will not.

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