What Scalia’s Death Means for His Replacement

Antonin Scalia - Nazi OfficerJustice Antonin Scalia was found dead at a resort in Texas this morning. I assume it was a heart attack. He was 79 and he never looked particularly healthy to me. It’s obviously a personal tragedy for those who knew and loved him. I’m not one of them. To me, he was just a really powerful man who did great damage to our country. Not that he was always wrong, but his ideology affected his rulings in a more grand way than most recent judges. And the last several years he wasn’t making a lot of sense — on or off the bench.

My concern is his replacement. Because other than raising Scalia from the dead and nominating that zombie to the Supreme Court, I don’t see the Republican controlled Senate allowing Obama to appoint anyone at all. And you know Obama: he’s never been one to nominate liberals to the Court. As I’ve noted many times, the Court used to have 5 conservatives, 3 moderates, and 1 liberal. Now it has only 4 conservatives. The Republicans will try to stop any replacement, hoping that they control the White House starting next year.

Think about the history here. Obama got to replace two liberalish justices with two moderate ones. And even that was treated by the Republicans as though he were staging a violent coup. The idea that Obama will get to replace a conservative firebrand like Scalia will be seen as totally unacceptable. And so they will try to avoid doing anything at all.

Republican’s Dangerous Moment Regarding Scalia

But here’s the interesting thing: this is a very dangerous game for them. If they allow Obama to put another moderate on the bench, they might be lucky. If Clinton is the next president, she will almost certainly have a majority in the Senate. And if necessary, the Democrats will be able to abolish the filibuster altogether, and allow Clinton to put the first truly liberal judge on the bench since her husband was in office. Do they really want to take that chance?

Well, the answer is clear: yes. They will definitely take that chance, because the Republicans are the “all or nothing” party. I look back with great glee to when, after winning re-election, Obama told Boehner, “You should have taken the deal I offered you back then.” That was the deal where Boehner claimed to get 98% of what he wanted and still turned it down. But this does make it all the more important that the Democrats win the presidency this year.

Think about this: with another moderate on the bench, the Court could hear another case that would allow it to reverse Citizens United. We would back away from the coming reverse on Roe v Wade. Scalia’s death could hearken much better times for millions of people in the United States. On the other hand, what is the worse case scenario? The Republicans don’t allow Obama appoint a new judge, and we get someone just as bad as Scalia. So this is a very hopeful day for liberals and a terrible day for conservatives.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “What Scalia’s Death Means for His Replacement

  1. The media is already framing this as a fight instead of the president doing his damn job.

    I swear to God, we need a new media because they are so horrible.

    • Absolutely. Truth is always something that we tweeze out of combining the Democratic and Republican positions. They will not allow anyone to appointed. And it will be okay because the media will except this breaking of a new norm as just something that well meaning people can differ on. Anthony Kennedy was appointed in an election year when there was a Republican in the White House and Democrats controlled the Senate. But the other way around: no, no, no!

      • And what do we do when the truth is actually the Democratic position as the Republicans are simply lying at this point.

        I see minor protests from the media from time to time but they instantly use the terms that the Republicans set and no calling them on it seems to work.

        • Krugman has been really good at going after “moderate” pundits for saying that Obama should compromise with the Republicans, when it turns out that what the pundits are calling for is Obama’s position. This reminds me of a thing that bugs the hell out of me. Clinton signed welfare “reform” — truly ending welfare as we knew it. This has made life so much harder on the poor. Yet conservatives act as though it never happened — as though it were still 1970. It doesn’t matter how much you compromise with conservatives, you never get any credit. And their complaints never change.

  2. As a blog host, you must be kind to the members of Scalia’s family, but I don’t have to. He was human slime. There have presumably been worse people in American history but I can’t think of more than a few offhand. Ooh, gosh, his death might have caused suffering to people who loved him. Well, he caused suffering far worse to people I cared about far more.

    Rot in hell you rat bastard. Oblivious death is way to good for you. I want the lake of fire Scalia believed in, and I want it applied strictly to him.

    (I guess Clarence Thomas will be stuttering around like the bridgekeeper in “Holy Grail.” “What is your favorite color? What is the carrying capacity of a swallow? Who the hell am I?”)

    Scalia actually (literally?) thought the US constitution had no legal weight because it came from hu-mans and not, unlike the Bible, the mind of God. He believed in the divine right of kings. He said this stuff, as a Supreme Court judge, fully aware scribes would write it down. He was proud of it. He hated the American people with a pure and pristine hate. Guess what? I hate him back.

    Fuck you, Antoine Scalia. A thousand Puragtories can’t make up for what you did.

    I’m fine with Obama appointing a centrist justice again. At least it won’t be Scalia.

    • You’re right that he harmed many lives. But we aren’t supposed to say that. We are only supposed to say how the dead helped people — unless they lost a war. I like to think that on balance, my little life is a bit in the black. Scalia’s was clearly far in the red.

      • Unlike Scalia, I am a true Catholic. (A lapsed Catholic, to be sure, but as the author Gary Indiana has written, the thing about Catholicism is you can consciously reject it and still feel the mechanisms ticking away inside you.)

        As a true Catholic, I believe in forgiveness. Perhaps a person’s life was more in the red than black. But did they try to change? I mean, Scrooge is an old guy, he probably doesn’t have enough time to undo all the s**t he did. But he tried, and that’s what counts.

        However, as a true Catholic, I also believe in being hugely judgmental. If someone doesn’t repent, I want some serious fire and brimstone on their butts.

        My favorite Catholic thing was always Purgatory. I know it was basically a way for the church to raise money from rich jerkholes who wanted “indulgences” for all the rotten stuff they were doing. I get this, I get why Luther hated it.

        Still. The idea that there’s kind of a practice Hell — where you aren’t doomed forever, you just have to spend a lot of time realizing what nasty stuff you did — it’s a charming idea. Kinda like reincarnation and karma in Hinduism. Which also has awful real-world effects, just like indulgences did. But they’re still likable notions.

        Let’s hope Scalia is in Purgatory. Or reincarnated as a potato.

        • Do we have a time on that reincarnation? Because I make french fries all the time…

          Actually, as I note in an upcoming article, Scalia did the world a great service by dying because now the Paris agreement will go forward.

          I believe in forgiveness too. The moment someone stops actively annoying me, I can forgive them. Scalia never got there.

  3. What makes sense to me is that Obama should look for a middling liberal youngish federal judge, and anounce the appointment early next week. The Republicans will refuse to move the nomination along. And Obama ought to ask for the Senate to act — loudly, every week. It’s not somehing that will make voters happier with Republicans.

    Of course, I’m confident that Obama won’t do this.

      • “Um — alright, umm? — I can understand. Why some Americans. Some Americans might feel very strongly about this issue. And I get that.

        “What I say to you is, I feel strongly about this issue, too. I know we have differences. And differences are what make our country strong. Democracy. We are the greatest country in the history of the world, not despite our differences, but because of them!

        “And that’s why, today, I ask the Congress to join with me. We don’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes — sometimes, we don’t even see eye to birth certificate.”


        “But one thing I can tell you. Is. If we work together, we can pass legislation strongly castigating anyone who rapes babies in the ear. Engorged penises thrusting into bleeding infant earholes, that’s not what America is about.

        “We can tell baby ear rapists to be somewhat ashamed! And we can do it, today!”


    • I’m curious to see what he will do. I don’t expect a stunt. I expect a very middle-of-the-road choice just to show how ridiculous the Republicans are. But it won’t matter. Anyone not convinced by now will never be convinced. The Republicans have their talking point and they will stick with it. And the media will say, “Who knows?!” Sure, there will be the Ezra Klieins out there talking about Anthony Kennedy, but that stuff won’t become mainstream news.

  4. I find it very interesting that many liberals are happy that Scalia died. It’s not like he retired, he died! My first emotion upon hearing the news was immense joy. I cannot ever remember feeling joy at someone’s death before. I am not proud of the joy this news brought me but I’m not feeling guilty either. Very strange.

    • When Nixon died, I was working the graveyard shift at a convenience store. One guy came in. “I know Nixon was a great statesmean, and all that,” the guy said. “But I don’t feel sad about his dying. Before Nixon, I believed in America. After Nixon, I didn’t.”

      I’m a Nixon fan, but I absolutely agreed with this customer. I didn’t feel sad Nixom died, either.

      When you work the graveyard shift, you meet some strange characters. Some are profound. Some are maniacal. And some, quite rightfully, hate Scalia or Nixon.

    • I think it’s fine. We don’t wring our hands at all the drone attacks and talk about how sad we are for the loved ones of the innocent people we kill. It’s a social convention. I throw it in. But I hope I’m clear: I know Scalia only as a public figure. As a public figure, he was awful. It is good that he is dead now from that perspective. I can’t speak of anything else about him. And neither can the vast majority of people who claim to care. Unless you knew him, you don’t really care.

      For the record: when Michael Jackson died, I didn’t care in the least. I’m just not into that kind of public “emotion.”

  5. I’m very pleased to have seen the back of Scalia and wish he hadn’t had so much time to wreak evil. Folk like Reagan and Nixon, on the other hand — once they leave office, I’d just as soon not think about them at all. Which would of course be easier if the wingers would refrain from trying to rename everything in sight whenever they aren’t busy publishing revisionist histories.

    • Yes. But I think we should start naming public restrooms after Reagan. I’d love to urinate where there’s a sign, “Reagan peed here.”

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