Tuesday, February 16, 2016
//When the news broke Saturday that Justice Antonin Scalia had died at age 79, my Twitter feed began to fill with hate. Not disagreement or disrespect -- actual hate. He was an ignorant waste of flesh, wrote one young fool. His death was the best news in decades, cheered another. Then there was the woman who just had to tell the world that she felt safer now than she had at the death of Osama bin Laden. And several people expressed the hope -- the hope! -- that Clarence Thomas would die next.
Thus we see the discursive toll of our depressing Supreme Court deathwatch. We’re actually rooting for people to die.
It’s unusual for a vacancy to occur in the midst of a presidential campaign, but it’s common as cake for activists to dream the hours away speculating on who’ll be next to go, and for journalists to count up the number of appointments they think the next president will get to make. Sometimes in their earnestness the activists of left and right do indeed sound as if they’re rooting for a death or two. They seem to think the justices whose votes enrage them deserve to go.//
//But here’s the thing. When Marshall, his health broken, at last stepped down in 1991, with a year and a half to live, there were only encomiums, even from conservatives. True, Twitter didn’t exist. If it had, perhaps the gleeful right would have been dancing in public. Instead, whatever champagne was drunk was poured in private. And that makes all the difference. To mute those cheers shows respect not only for the dead, but also for the institution.
When Chief Justice Fred Vinson died during the pendency of Brown v. Board of Education, Felix Frankfurter memorably called the event “the first solid piece of evidence I've ever had that there really is a God.” But he said it in private, and would have been justifiably furious had the clerk to whom he had made the comment publicized it during Frankfurter’s own lifetime. To trash the justices because we don’t like their votes (usually on a handful of issues) is to diminish the majesty of the court itself. The more we do it, the less reason there is for anybody to respect the justices when at last whichever side we’re on has a majority.//
This is a result of the fact that the Supreme Court plays too large a role in government, and government plays too large a role in life, plus the "bolshevization" of American politics,which makes political disagreements litmus tests of human worth.
If justices were deciding purely legal issues, there would not be the same rooting interest.