Monday, 10 April 2017

A Step Back Towards the Future

Gorsuch--A Principled Conservative Choice

Two world views, two realities.  Most people acknowledge there is deep division in the United States over ideology.  The existence of such an ideological or philosophical clash is strange to many throughout the West.  For many, there is no clash of civilization.  Countries like Germany and France and Belgium (that is, old Europe) are reflexively held in the grip of just one of the world views.  In other words, there is very little ideological war in such countries.

Consequently, when politicians suddenly emerge from the consensus to express ideas more consistent with Christendom they are immediately branded as extremists, right through to being called neo-Nazis.  But in the United States the conservative position is more widely held.  The ideological struggle is more real, more evenly balanced.

One of the battles has been the nomination (and now confirmation) of Neil M. Gorsuch to a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, left by the untimely death of Antonin Scalia.  The Left hated him--nothing personal, you understand--it's just a clash of views regarding civilisation itself. There have been some very unusual aspects to his nomination.
 The first was candidate Trump's fulfilled promise to have drawn up a list of jurists who were conservatives, from which he would pick a nominee.  That list was endorsed and celebrated very widely.  It was an unusual way to move, but it established some basic procedures that confirmed Trump's commitment to a conservative world view, at least in some matters.

Gorsuch is an originalist.  That is, he views the Constitution of the United States to reflect timeless truths and values which hold down through decades and centuries.  Therefore, the fundamental role of a Supreme Court justice is to ensure that all matters coming before the bench are judged as to whether they are consistent with that document.  The alternative--largely represented in the Democratic Party, the Left, and the Progressive camp--is that the Constitution is a living document, or more quaintly, a wax nose which can be twisted, shaped, and re-shaped to conform to current fads and fashions.

What this means is that Judge Gorsuch is likely to come out with positions and arguments from time to time that surprise both left and right.  He is expected, thus, to be a far more independent minded jurist than many, being bound to more fundamental authorities rather than celebrated causes du jour.  But principled, holding to the ultimate authority of the Constitution of the United States over laws and government.

The second unusual aspect is the suspension, of the convention in the Senate that such votes should have a clear majority of sixty votes or more.  The former leader of the Senate, Harry Reid sensationally departed from this convention to make some critical matters subject to a straight forward majority vote.  The Democrats cheered Harry for his forceful leadership in their cause.  Now, since the Democrats were voting along naked party lines over Gorsuch, the Republicans invoked Harry Reid's precedent, and made Gorsuch's confirmation subject to a simple majority vote.  And so he is now formally approved by the Senate.  The super-majority of sixty votes is likely gone forever from the Senate.

We will be watching how the Supreme Court does as it gets to work.  History has been made.  We will see how things now unfold.

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