The Transpartisan Matrix and an Open Seat on the Supreme Court

Transpartisan Note #132

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

New York Times writer, Bret Stephens, in his op-ed An Open Letter to Mitt Romney shares his argument for why Lindsey Graham is wrong to rush the appointment of a nominee for the Supreme Court and why Senator Romney should stand firm in light of the pressure he is receiving from his party. Despite the fact that Romney is supporting a vote, there is a lot to learn from this letter; from the response of the National Review; and from Romney’s own response.

One of Stephens’ most interesting points is to look at the hypocrisy of the Republican argument:

This, however, raises a philosophical consideration. If a central conservative complaint about the federal judiciary is that it has arrogated too many powers that ought to be in the hands of the people, how can conservatives justify entrenching their power in the courts in the expectation that they’re unlikely to win at the polls?

Now you have a Republican Party that seeks to advance its notions of judicial modesty and democratic accountability by the most immodest means imaginable, all in order to lock in conservative control over the least democratic branch of government. Wouldn’t the better Republican way be to try to win more elections with better candidates?

However, the National Review counters by pointing out:

Stephens believes that because conservatives think the Supreme Court should be less powerful, they should decline to confirm justices who share that belief, and cede the Court to people happy to use it as a kind of super legislature. It’s an entirely illogical argument, and one that I wish I could say was surprising to see in the paper of record.

In his article about Senator Romney’s response, Burgess Everett, explains that:

Because the president’s party controls the Senate this time around, Romney said it was reasonable for the GOP to move forward in considering Trump’s nominee in 2020.

“It wasn’t unfair because it was consistent with history. It was consistent with precedent, it was consistent with the Constitution,” Romney told reporters. “That the Merrick Garland decision was unfair, and so therefore it has to be made up by doing something which also wouldn’t make a lot of sense — which is saying to President Trump you can’t get your nominee, either — that just doesn’t follow.”

In Stephens’ letter, observe the way that freedom and order arguments (from our Transpartisan Matrix) are presented from both the left and the right.  Note the manner in which personal pragmatic desires are juxtaposed against “the good of the country.” Note that similar analysis is made for both left and right positions.  All of this from a conservative writer.  Note that the argument shifts from the left/right transactional horizontal spectrum toward the vertical order/freedom integration axis on both the left and the right.

Now let’s look at the Conservative National Review deconstruction of Stephen’s letter, as well as Romney’s response. Let us know if you see the Matrix and, whether you do or do not, share your comments and questions below.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

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