Merrick Garland, Trump, and the Penultimate in Nullification


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It’s a weird coincidence that the most blatant example of nullification since the Civil War was directed toward our first black President, isn’t it? Just weird. 

I woke up at about 3:30 this morning in a state of instant, boiling anger. I believe, though it is fuzzy, but I believe that in a dream I was talking about Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s wind-twisted Supreme Court nominee, and then when I woke up the disgusting scope of the whole project hit like an express train.

You know the express trains, right? You’re standing on the platform, and one of these beasts comes while barely slowing down. There’s one that comes through my station right about the time I arrive every morning, and every morning I shudder a little bit as it blares past, hundreds of tons of power moving at unstoppable speeds. It’s a force that feels a little bit like death. I always imagine someone running and jostling me, and I get pushed to the side just a bit, and my backpack gets caught, and I’m turned cartwheeling and pinballing into a mushy forever, just like that. Something that can’t be stopped.

That’s what happened here: the whole sickening enormity, which we saw coming, and somehow wasn’t stopped. It’s undemocratic in a real sense, in that more people voted for Hillary Clinton, a fact that seems somehow muted in the discussion, instead of being a teeth-gnashing outrage. But the will of the people is not an issue for the Republicans. It hasn’t been for a long time, and certainly not at all in the era of Barack Obama.

The Merrick Garland saga is key to the whole thing: it seems silly to have to point out, but President Obama won re-election really easily, with more popular votes and more electoral college votes than Mitt Romney, something that should not be seen as quaint. Three years into a four-year term, a Supreme Court seat came open, and the Republicans simply said: no. Not going to happen. Your election no longer matters.

Most of the talk was if this would help or hurt Republicans in the general election. It’s hard to say, since it wasn’t made an issue, but let’s not pretend it wasn’t helpful among the base. Nullifying the election of the first black President was always their main goal. It’s what led to the unprecedented obstruction seen in both his terms. It’s what led to Trump’s most important campaign promise, where he said he would “erase the Obama Presidency on Day 1.”

Think about that. Really think about it. Barack Obama ran on cleaning up Bush’s hideous mistakes. Bush ran to restore dignity to the White House after Clinton. Every candidate runs against the opposition party, but this is a different beast. They don’t want to merely change Obama’s policies. They want to erase him from the books, destroy his legacy, make the revolutionary and transformative figure into an afterthought.

And it’s all part of the same effort: to deny his legitimacy, and thus the legitimacy of non-white accomplishment and progressive success. It’s why Steve Bannon has a place of pride in the new Administration. Trump’s win was the apotheosis of their reactionary movement.

In a way, it’s a sweet and fitting thing then. A President elected thanks to (certainly to an extent) legal suppression of black voters, and entirely due to an anachronistic system designed to protect the rights of slaveholders stands as the culmination of a process that worked to deny the first black President any legitimacy. And now, they’re going to try to erase him altogether.

Everyone knows that the Supreme Court is one of the issues in every election, and far more people wanted Obama to have the power to fill a seat, and more people wanted to give Hillary Clinton that power, and none of it matters. Enormously important and far-reaching decisions will be made in direct and willful opposition to the wishes of the public. And there is barely an outcry.

This is how democracies die.

6 thoughts on “Merrick Garland, Trump, and the Penultimate in Nullification

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