By: Alexander Holderith, USM ‘20
During and after the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and now Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it became increasingly clear that the intransigence of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, much to the chagrin of democrats across the country, would lead to the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Newspaper editorials and statements from groups across the country went into a tirade as his confirmation was moved to the full Senate for consideration. Despite floods of protestors in the Senate Office Buildings and screams of dissent from the Senate Chamber Gallery, the Senate voted to confirm Judge Kavanaugh 50-48.
While the rage that followed was entirely anticipated, the central theme of protest seemed to change. No longer was it a fight to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, it was now a fight to question the very legitimacy of the system that put him on the bench.
Publications such as The Guardian printed stories with headlines claiming that “Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation isn’t democracy. It’s a judicial coup” and Vox’s Ezra Klein decried, “The rigging of American politics.” The failure of the process, Klein claims in his piece, rests with the two representatives per state structure of the Senate itself. It was as if the Madisonian dissatisfaction with The Great Compromise had decided to rear its head again 230 years later, albeit with a palpable lack of noble statesmen. Even further, the tone of many protestors seemed to imply that the very idea of representation was flawed.
The general premise then, it seems, is that when the Senate or House is to consider widely consequential nominations or legislation, the people get to conduct either a popular referendum on Congress’s decision, or a passion inflamed snap election in which no representatives are safe.
The foundational principle of representative democracy is the power that we entrust to professional legislators. Between 2015 and 2017, our elected officials in the 114th Congress introduced 10,078 pieces of legislation, or 18 per member of the House and Senate. Can you name the 329 that made it into law? Can you name five? I can’t. That’s why I trust Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to do it for me. So why, then, should I consider myself qualified to do their job for even one day out of the year? Especially when a decision of immense consequence, such as the vote for a Supreme Court nominee, makes their qualifications and our trust in them when they were elected of the utmost relevance to making such a decision.
The truth is that we, as citizens of Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and all the other states of the union decided 230 years ago that, actually, we didn’t know all that much about governing and that perhaps we should entrust power those who do. And so this is what is on the table in November. This is our popular referendum. Make your voice heard now. You will not get another chance until 2020.