Don Walton: Supreme Court appears to be ultimate prize

October 2, 2018

As the Brett Kavanaugh saga moves into FBI territory and an uncertain ending, the political dynamics in Washington are instructive.

Last week clearly demonstrated that Republicans may be prepared and quite willing to risk control of the Congress to assure long-term ideological control of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The looming Senate confirmation vote on Kavanaugh after last week’s poignant and dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings could have a huge impact on the size and nature of voter turnout in November.

It might determine control of Congress.

Of course, that’s highly speculative and remains to be seen. There probably are more forks along this road, but November is looming over the horizon now.

What better evidence of the relative power of the three branches than what may be about to occur.

The political risk that Republicans appear prepared to take is clear confirmation that the real power among the three branches of government lies with the court, where unelected judges can serve until death do us part, armed with the ultimate power that comes with having the last word.

It’s doubtful that was what the Founders had in mind when they tried to balance the three branches, but that’s where we are today.

Separate, but not equal, to borrow words from a landmark court decision.

Judges and judicial nominees always swear their reverence for stare decisis, or established precedent, and say they would never, not ever try to legislate from the bench.

They say they always are seeking to just follow the Constitution and the law, not legislate.

And yet they have to erase the first 13 words of the 2nd Amendment, the opening and controlling clause, in order to reach a conclusion they desire.

They create broad and bizarre new definitions of people and speech to allow money to dominate, and too often effectively control, our elections.

If you don’t have money to purchase TV advertising and mount an expensive 21st Century campaign, you cannot effectively compete. Campaign finance legislation, including what promised to be an effective state law championed by Peter Hoagland in Nebraska, has been effectively wiped off the books.

An earlier court had to make up so much stuff to stop the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida — and effectively assume the role of the Electoral College by naming the next president — that it added a statement to its ruling declaring it was not establishing precedent.

Just achieving a result.

Unlike the president and the Congress, when the court speaks that is the last word.

Until it speaks again.

So, it is no wonder the Supreme Court has become the ultimate political prize, so valued that both political parties are willing to put control of Congress at risk.

The Democrats are taking a chance here, too, in attempting to derail Kavanaugh by whatever means may be available, energizing President Donald Trump’s political base in advance of November. Unlike the other side, they already have demonstrated that they will show up at the polls.

Risking the wrath of voters on both sides of this emotional and contentious divide is worth it for both parties.

Whether it should be or not, cementing control of the court is the long-term game.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Chuck Hagel and Bob Kerrey will discuss the value and impact of civil discourse during a joint appearance at Nebraska Innovation Campus on Oct. 22.

* Let’s clearly remember the condition of the Husker football program that Scott Frost inherited. Final game of the season last year: Iowa 42; Nebraska 0. That was just the second half score, the final two quarters of the 2017 season. That was the state of Husker football.

* A whole baseball season at risk in a couple of single wild-card games this week. Drama comes with October.

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