In today's hyper-partisan environment, true statesmen -- people who put the interests of the country above party loyalties -- are an endangered species. Long gone at the days when politics was civil; when you could respectfully disagree with another person without vilifying them as morally inept. Today, the only thing Republicans disagree on is whether President Obama is intentionally ruining their country, or if he's just too stupid to realize the consequences of his actions. Many Democrats, alas, damn their opponents as religiously obsessed bigots. Neither characterization seems fair.
It is in this context that I am pleasantly surprised to hear reports that President Obama will to vet Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Sandoval is a Republican -- so it's hard for Republicans to claim partisanship in the decision. Likewise, Sandoval is a former federal judge who was confirmed unanimously in 2005 -- so he's hardly polarizing and definitely qualified for the job. If President Obama were to nominate Sandoval, it would demonstrate a sense of tact that is sorely lacking from politics today. It would be a breath of fresh air.
For Democrats, Sandoval may be the ideal nominee. Though hardly a liberal, he probably stands the best chance of being approved by the Senate. That's a great hedge against the risk that a Republican is elected in 2016 and chooses to nominate someone of Scalia's ideological zeal. It's also politically brilliant -- because Republicans will probably block the nomination anyway. For independent voters, this will be another very public battle indicating just how irrational Republicans can be. And it will come just as the election season heads into full swing.
Most important for me -- as an undecided independent voter -- I think it will highlight just how nakedly partisan Republicans are. As I mull over the thought of Republicans rejecting Sandoval, I can't help but feel this sense that Republicans just aren't fit to govern. I mean if you seriously hate your opponents so much that you won't even consider a member of your own party -- a governor, no less -- for the Supreme Court, how can you be fit to run this country? Politics shouldn't be winner-takes-all.
Yes, Republicans embarrass themselves all the time, but this feels different. To reject a Republican governor as a presidential nominee is just so blatantly divisive that it would make me trust Congress even less than I already do -- I mighty feat. I could be alone -- it's possible that our country is so numb to partisanship that Republican obstructionism would be taken for granted. And surely the Republican base would eat it up.
I want my elected officials to be mature. Being President of the United States, after all, is an incredibly difficult job with serious consequences. And if nasty brawls between Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump aren't enough to remind us just how irresponsible and un-presidential the Republican candidates are, an all-out fight against a moderate Republican will be the nail in the coffin. To this end, Hillary Clinton would offer a stark contrast. Though she's dishonest, I have no trouble imagining Clinton as Commander-in-Chief; she's mature, levelheaded, and battle-tested. She may not be inspiring, but we know she can do the job.
Worse for Republicans, rejecting Sandoval would be hypocritical. Republicans believe in the original intent of the constitution. Indeed, Justice Scalia was the strongest proponent of adhering to the constitution, even when we disagree with what it says. And the constitution is unambiguous on the topic of federal judge selection; the Senate's role is to advise and consent -- not to choose the nominee. Of course, there is precedent for opposing an overtly political nomination, but there is no defensible ground when the nominee is from your own party. In that case, there's no room for reasonable people to differ. Again, I wonder, whether such blatant hypocrisy would indicate that Republicans are unfit to govern.
Finally, we must consider the practical implications of a Supreme Court nominee. With the court now evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, the new nominee will have an important role to play in shaping future decisions. Such a nominee could have the potential to reverse Roe v. Wade or make gay marriage illegal. Indeed, that's what Republicans are calling for. I would feel much more comfortable voting for the GOP nominee if I knew these freedoms -- so overwhelmingly supported by young people today -- were protected. By contrast, if the Republican Party votes down a moderate Republican, then I fear they would nominate another Scalia -- who though brilliant, will be remembered as having been on the wrong side of many social issues. Democrats would use a rejection to galvanize their base, reminding voters that a Republican ballot is a vote to make abortion and gay marriage illegal.
No matter what he does, President Obama will leave office at a time when our nation is more divided than ever before. But if he makes an overture and nominates Sandoval, he will have at least made an effort to reconcile with Republicans. He'll leave on a positive note, having been the bigger man.
For their part, Republicans need to stop playing political games with the Supreme Court nomination -- it's unbecoming of a party that hopes to convince us that it's fit to rule. If Sandoval is nominated, the GOP should approve him.