The reaction to the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away Saturday at age 79, shows all that is wrong with the American body politic, on both ends of the political spectrum.
To be sure, Scalia, who was appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1986, was a polarizing figure, a hero to conservatives and an anathema to liberals. But he was one of just 117 individuals who have served on our nation’s highest court since it was established in 1989. Only 13 others served as long or longer and history will doubtless list him as one of the most significant and influential legal jurists in our nation’s history.
He was also a man who married the love of his life and raised nine children.
But in the hours immediately after his death was announce late Saturday afternoon in the East, the reaction centered not on the pain of loss suffered by his family and colleagues but on the political fallout; should President Obama nominate a successor now and how will Justice Scalia’s death impact the upcoming election? Indeed, that was the first question asked of each of the candidates who participated in Saturday’s Republican debate in South Carolina,
Their answers perpetuated the mindset that our lawmakers, and those who wish to govern, are more committed to adhering to a series of rigid ideological standards than they are to the nation’s best interests.
Yes, it is an election year. But in this winter of 2016 we are a nation divided. Whether we as a nation have the will to reach across that divide is troubling question, one that is difficult to answer.
Justice Scalia had the ability to do that; two of his closest associates on the High Court were Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elana Kagen, who were 180 degrees opposite of him in terms of judicial philosophy. But they found common ground. The question is whether the nation Antonin Scalia served can do the same going forward.