Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Dems should play hand they're dealt


July 4, 2018

OK. President Donald Trump gets another U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Guess what? He or she will be a conservative.

The majorities vary between the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, but they are Republican in both cases.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.) is saying we should put off an appointment until after the November election.

Why? Because that's what they did to President Barack Obama when he tried to appoint a justice after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Sorry, Chuck, it won't work.

This time the president and majorities in both houses of Congress are of the same party, and most people think the likelihood of majorities flipping in either house is pretty slim, despite the wishes of many, including me, that it could happen.

The Democrats, I think, are better off playing the hand they're dealt.

One of President Donald Trump's first moves was appointing Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia. Gorsuch is a conservative but also a seasoned, able federal jurist.

From what I've seen, the president's current “short list” of potential nominees is also populated by knowledgeable, principled judges. His choice again seems likely to be a solid one.

Funny thing about U.S. Supreme Court justices.

They seem to have more respect for legal principles and respect for precedent than they do for their personal ideologies or the presidents who nominate them.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement triggered Trump's latest justice-picking opportunity, was probably a disappointment to President Ronald Reagan, the conservative's conservative who appointed him. Kennedy became known as the court's “swing” vote, since his opinions could go left or right.

It has been the same with current Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, another Republican.

Roberts has upheld the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Environmental Protection Agency and voted against prosecuting detainees at Guantanamo Bay under military justice standards. None of these decisions pleased Republicans, although he has contributed to decisions that did favor the right.

Most Supreme Court justices seem to find that opportunities to operate on ideological grounds are few and far between, mostly because they are dedicated to professionalism in the practice of law, first.

Media reports generally emphasize the ideology that key Supreme Court decisions represent, rather than focus on the legal thinking that went into them. This kind of reporting tends to encourage the belief that the Supreme Court is primarily an ideological organization, which it is not, nor has ever been.

My advice to Sen. Schumer is to let this one go and focus on helping your party find leaders who can offer an effective challenge to President Trump in 2020, and turn the majority of popular votes the Democrats received in 2016 into a real victory this time.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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