Friday, February 19, 2016

On Scalia: Letter to Dan Coats

In this February 16 interview, Indiana Senator Dan Coats said that he didn't believe President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. Here is the point he made, in particular:
“I think that ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate,” Coats said. “But at that point, that person has to be evaluated in a non-partisan way, in my opinion. Does he have the experience? Does he or she have the criteria to be a justice? The temperament?"
He isn't alone. There's been a slew of this talk from Republicans, and some Republicans have actively broken ranks to say that Congress should do its job, including the definitely-not-pro-Obama Tea Party governor of Maine. While I'm willing to attribute this behavior strictly to political opportunism, and a real fear about losing strong conservative voices on the court, some have attributed far more sinister motives to the call.

The end result of all this, for me, was the following letter to Indiana Senator Dan Coats:
Dear Senator Coats,  
I was disappointed to read today that you had publicly expressed the desire to push off a decision on a Supreme Court nominee until after the election. In the interview you claimed that this was a desire that it "ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate."  
It occurs to me that this question has indeed been put to the American people twice, in 2008 and 2012. I voted for President Obama in both cases, but I'm non-partisan, and in each election I seriously considered all of the candidates. I intend to do so again this year, but I will confess that this sort of obstructionism on the part of Republicans is troublesome to me. If Republicans have a hope of winning over enough moderate voters in a general election to win the White House, they have to convince the American people that they can actually govern. 
In this case, that means allowing President Obama - whom the American people decided twice to be their president - to perform his duties for the fourth year of his second elected term. What it seems to me you are actually saying in the above quote is that you feel uncomfortable with the decision the American people made in 2012 and hope they make a different one this year. You are certainly free to be uncomfortable with it, but your Constitutional duty as a Senator is clear. If President Obama puts forth a qualified nominee, and Republicans obstruct it on purely political grounds, I suspect it will cast a very poor shadow on Republican prospects among moderates in the general election.  
I know it will for this moderate.  
Thank you for your time. 
I don't know if this sort of thing ultimately has any impact, but it seems good to have one's voice heard. You can leave a message for Indiana Senator Dan Coats here.