Mourning American Democracy

I know elections have consequences.  I grew up in New York City in the 1970s, came out as gay in the 1980s and marched against the first Gulf War in the 1990s.  I count Mayor Koch and Presidents Reagan and Bush I among the people responsible for who I am today, for better or for worse.  I know that elections have consequences.

So why was it so devastating on Friday morning when the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to become the next Supreme Court Justice; and only slightly less so when he was sworn in this morning?  Did I think it would end otherwise?  I hate to admit it, but part of me really believed that we wouldn’t get to this point

I have been holding on to the hope – chimerical I now have to admit – that some fair-minded Republicans in Congress care about their country more than their party; or at least care more about their party than about their president or their congressional leadership.  I believed that the various probes into the Russia-Trump connections would raise enough concerns in enough of those fair-minded elected officials that we would all agree to put things on hold until it could all be sorted out.  Not all things, but things that couldn’t be undone.  Like a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court; which also happens to be the enforcement and justice branch of the U.S. Government.

Until now, the things we have lost on, that Trump has won – his various cabinet appointments, e.g. — have been reversible, by the courts or by Congress, or by the voters.  And much of what Trump has tried to do – his Muslim and Refugee bans, his repeal of Obamacare, his attempt to install a registered foreign agent as National Security Advisor – has been stopped by one of those countervailing forces.

But not this.  Gorsuch has been nominated, confirmed, and now sworn in to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States for the rest of his life.  Short of misconduct on his part while in that role, he cannot be removed from his seat by anyone.  Even if Trump is impeached and his entire administration has to leave office in disgrace, he has succeeded in forever changing one of the branches of our government; and there is nothing we can do about that.

About a month ago, I wrote:  “even if (when?) Neil Gorsuch becomes the new Associate Justice, Democracy will not be dead, the resistance will not be over.  Far from it.  Our success at resisting the Trump and Republican Administration is not measured by how many nominations we block or bills we defeat.  It is measured by our ongoing commitment to inclusive, democratic values as our guide in all actions of resistance.   Neil Gorsuch will become the new Associate Justice only after we have made a lot of noise geared toward holding those in power accountable:  not only for nominating/appointing a jurist who falls well outside the mainstream of American legal thought and practice; but also for failing to abide by basic rules of democratic governance.”

All that is true.  And I will write more about it in the coming days.  But for today, I mourn for our country and for our future.  I mourn for the breakdown in the democratic institutions that make our country what it is; and that now, I fear, are dysfunctional tools of power hungry autocrats.  The Supreme Court was the last vestige – the one branch that seemed to take its constitutional mandate seriously.  And now it too has fallen under the growing shadow cast by an illegitimate Executive Branch enabled by a Legislative Branch driven by nothing more or less complicated than the desire to hold on to power, apparently at any cost.

This is not the American Democracy I believe in.  So today, I am in mourning.

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