30 December 2015

Two Surprises at the End of 2015

There are two things that many thought would happen this year that didn't pan out.

First, many thought that there would be an attempt to impeach Obama. If it was going to happen it was going to be in 2015 after the Republicans scored their 2014 mid-term victories.
But it didn't. Why?
There will be divergent opinions on this matter but I think the primary reason is the dissent within the Republican Party itself. The Tea-Party's various manifestations have divided the party. They don't want a repeat of 1999 when they failed to impeach Clinton in the Senate. He came out stronger in the end. Gingrich had been ousted and Clinton went out on top with a lot of popular approval. Gore should have been easily defeated. Instead he probably won the election, even by the asinine Electoral College standards. Only the Supreme Court and in particular Sandra Day O'Connor saved Bush in the end.
If the GOP went after Obama and it fell apart, they would look bad and they rightly fear a backlash. I do think if they thought they could have successfully impeached him they would have done it. But the cost of failure is too high. At this point Obama being in office is much more convenient for the 2016 campaign. It would seem that Obama will finish his term. Their real target at this point is Hillary Clinton.
Second, many people expected Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to retire. She's 82 years old and while hardly flagging it's not realistic to expect her to have many more years on the bench. A recent widow she's very devoted to her work and I'm sure she's keenly observed how regretful Sandra Day O'Connor has been after her retirement. Ginsburg obviously loves her job and wants to stay.
But with O'Connor's retirement, the court shifted to the Right. Her eventual replacement was Samuel Alito. If Ginsburg had retired in 2015, Obama could replace her and try to maintain the current balance. She could still potentially retire in 2016 but a nomination during the height of the election season is unadvisable. Everyone will be grandstanding and trying to score points. It would be more ugly than usual and Obama would certainly end up having to put in someone a little more toward the Right in order to get them through. Remember at this point the Republicans control the congress. It is also noteworthy that Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are on the judiciary committee.
Many thought she would retire, not because she wanted to, but because it was the time to do it in order to maintain the balance on the court.
Of course if Hillary Clinton wins then she can retire sometime in 2017-2019.
But if Clinton loses and the Republicans take over the White House she might have to wait until 2021 when a Democrat might take office or 2025 when the same Republican would finish a second term. At that point the woman would be well into her nineties.
Not a few people are irritated with her and view her intransigence as self-serving and potentially quite harmful. Her zeal to serve may in the end promote the undoing of her legacy. I must say in the reading I've done on the Supreme Court, not a few of these people develop a sort of megalomania. The power they wield is not overt but they view themselves as the caretakers of society or something to that effect.  Due to the nature of the Supreme Court their views of jurisprudence take on a different hue that can at times be quite offensive.
We'll see what happens in 2016 but the decisions of Bader-Ginsburg and Breyer may in the end provide the basis for a tremendous Republican victory and a complete re-shaping of the court. Kennedy is no youngster either. As the court's swing vote his replacement and effect on the balance of the court could be profound.
I cannot imagine the level of social polarity that will develop should such a pendulum swing occur. If the Republicans take the White House for one or two terms, there are potentially vast implications for the Supreme Court and the culture war being waged by the Christian Right. The lawsuits will come on at an accelerated rate and personally I would expect social violence to develop. American society is already feeling it. It will get worse.