Thursday, June 24, 2021
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Op-Ed: What Does It Mean to be American?

In 2016, Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court Justice, passed away. Two hundred seventy-three days before the future election, President Obama appointed US district court judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. The Republican-controlled Senate argued that Judge Garland should not take over the late Antonin Scalia’s seat, arguing that in an election year, voters should decide the next president to appoint a judge. Senate Republicans made up a precedent that a Supreme Court Justice could not be sworn in (i.e. rushed into the court) during the year of an election.

Following the announcement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Senate republican leadership changed their stance and announced an immediate search for a replacement Associate Justice. Several members of the senate majority reversed their opinion on their 2016 decision Senator McConnell instead argued a Supreme Court Justice has never been sworn in during an election year under a split presidency and Senate, supposedly justifying the confusing logic used to hold off Merrick Garland under the Obama Administration while also offering a reason to appoint a new Justice following RBG’s death. Republicans also point to another fabricated precedent, which is that 9 of 10 Supreme Court justices nominated in an election year have been verified by the Senate. This is outrageous! It was 9/9 in 2016. Merrick Garland made it 9/10. Senate Republicans cherry-picked statistics from history and used them to fit their current political demands. They have no sense of political honor – if they did, why didn’t Senate Republicans bring up this point in 2016?

Although the majority of elective malpractice has been committed by one congressional caucus, both parties have a history of complicated rhetoric. Many Democratic congress members supported the appointment of a late-term president but now advocate for electoral decisions. In 2016, Democrats cited the fact that if the president (then Obama) chose a candidate, then the Senate should be allowed to follow through, formally establishing that candidate without significant partisan Senate opposition. In light of RBG’s death, Democrats have backtracked, clarifying that they meant a president that was chosen by the people, after the election. This sudden move was designed to condemn Trump’s procedure similar to the Obama administration — appointing a third Supreme Court Justice before the subsequent election. This logic is still in direct conflict with Democratic reasoning as their argument of waiting for a subsequent president would have not supported Judge Garland’s appointment; according to their rhetoric, Democrats should have waited for the victor of the election in 2016. Another student argues that parties want their people in power. That’s America.

As my peer explained, politicians want their side to prosper. They don’t care how this is achieved. There is no right or wrong here, as proclaimed by career politicians or party leaders. 

The word “American people” is a commonly used but ill-defined term. The “American people” must not be exposed to fake news media. The “American people” deserve a right to bear arms. The “American people” demand justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The “American people” deserve to live a peaceful life without riots in their cities. The “American people” deserve the right to decide who their new Supreme Court Justice will be. This begs the question, who are we? What are the American people? Is it a phrase that carries no meaning, thrown around by manipulative members of our government? Is it, as the “founding fathers” wanted, a people, unified in their resolve for a better and more just nation? Or is it a divided society, unified under nothing except the land we walk on? No one person, each with their own opinion, can answer these questions. The average American is in no position, ironic as it is, to answer with 100% certainty what it means to be an American. As America was from its start – a melting pot of ideas, cultures, and races – it continues to be to this day. We are each only a small part of this melting pot, and this is what makes America so unique in its cultural, social, and political traits. Although the United States’ government may be sickening and flaws may be strewn across our leadership, take solace in that these qualities are what makes America so new and so revolutionary to the rest of the world.

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