On Tuesday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) gave what essentially amounted to a civics lesson during the confirmation hearings for SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh.
First, Sasse spoke directly to Kavanaugh, noting that while he is undoubtedly qualified, members of the Senate and outsiders protesting have been acting as though this is the end of the republic. He added that the protests aren’t actually about Kavanaugh himself, rather, they are a response to the fact that our understanding of the way in which American government works has been skewed:
Since your nomination in July, you’ve been accused of hating women, hating children, hating clean air, wanting dirty water. You’ve been declared [an] “existential threat” to our nation. Alumni of Yale Law School, incensed that faculty members at your alma mater praised your selection, wrote a public letter to the school saying “people will die” if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed. This drivel is patently absurd, and I worry that we’re going to hear more of it over the next few days – but the good news is, it is absurd and the American people don’t believe any of it…
You’ve earned high praise from the many lawyers, both Right and Left, who have appeared before you during her twelve years on the D.C. Circuit and those who have had you as a professor at Yale Law and at Harvard Law. People in legal circles invariably applaud your mind, your work, your temperament, your collegiality. That’s who Brett Kavanaugh is. And to quote Lisa Blatt, a Supreme Court attorney from the Left who’s know you for a decade, “Sometimes a superstar is just a superstar, and that’s the case with this judge. The Senate should confirm him.”
It’s pretty obvious to most people going about their work today that the deranged comments don’t actually have anything to do with you. So, we should figure out, why do we talk like this about Supreme Court nominations now? There’s a bunch that’s atypical in the last 19, 20 months in America…
But really, the reason these hearings don’t work is not because of Donald Trump, it’s not because of anything [in the] last 20 months. These confirmation hearings haven’t worked for 31 years in America. People are gonna pretend that Americans have no historical memory and supposedly there haven’t been screaming protesters saying “women are gonna die” at every hearing for decades – but this has been happening since Robert Bork. This is a 31-year tradition. There’s nothing really new the last 18 months.
So, the fact the hysteria has nothing to do with you means that we should ask, what’s the hysteria coming from? The hysteria around Supreme Court confirmation hearings is coming from the fact that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American life now. Our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like they’re people wearing red and blue jerseys. That’s a really dangerous thing…
It’s predictable that every confirmation hearing now is going to be [an] overblown, politicized circus, and it’s because we’ve accepted a new theory about how our three branches of government should work, and in particular, how the judiciary should work.
What Supreme Court confirmation hearings should be about is an opportunity to go back and do “Schoolhouse Rock” civics for our kids. We should be talking about how a bill becomes a law, and what the job of Article II is, and what the job of Article III is. So let’s try just a little bit. How did we get here and how can we fix it?
Sasse then briefly outlined his planned speech:
Number 1: In our system, the legislative branch is supposed to be the center of our politics. Number 2: It’s not. Why not? Because for the last century, and increasing by the decade right now, more and more legislative authority is delegated to the executive branch every year. Both parties do it. The legislature is impotent; the legislature is weak; and most people want their jobs more than they really want to do legislative work and so they punt most of the work to the next branch.
[The] third consequence is that this transfer of power means the people yearn for a place where politics can actually be done – and when we don’t do a lot of big actual political debating here, we transfer it to the Supreme Court, and that’s why the Supreme Court is increasingly a substitute political battleground in America. It is not healthy, but it is what happens, and it’s something that our Founders wouldn’t be able to make any sense of. Fourth and finally, we badly need to restore the proper duties and balance of power from our constitutional system.
From this point forward, the senator walked through each of his four points, giving a stellar lesson regarding how the various branches of government are supposed to function, and how much the system has mutated over the last decades.
Sasse’s entire speech is well worth the 16 minutes. It is also well worth sharing. It’s a grand starting point from which one can learn about the way in which the founders originally intended our system of government to function, and a basis for an exchange of ideas with any progressive friends and family one might have.
Take a look at the entire speech here: