Ten days and counting from Presidential Election 2020 reveal many lessons to glean from Pennsylvania starting with its longest serving U.S. Senator and former Senate Judiciary Committee chair. Arlen Specter, who began politics as a Democrat in 1951, switched to the Republican Party during the height of the Vietnam War in 1965 and back to the Democrats at the beginning of the Obama presidency in 2009, three years before his own passing.
In his waning days as a Republican and after holding a committee field hearing outside of Pittsburgh on the viability of a national renewable energy portfolio given his state’s burgeoning solar and wind industries, the Senator’s response was instructive. He supported the policy in principle but couldn’t vote for it (and didn’t) because he believed the process to get there politically was contaminated. Process rules, Chairman Specter adjudicated, not as expedient excuse but as systemic prophecy.
Tension between process and product is about whether the ends justify the means. History is replete with barbarities sanctioned by the raw exercise of extremist human self-will, self-love, and self-justification remaking divinity.
The ability to choose between life and death by regulating the former and sentencing the latter. The agency to create hell on earth in separating families at American borders and throwing their babies into concentration cages to accelerate ethnonationalism. The redlining regency to decide who gets to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and till hallowed ground with or without sharecropper tithing. The official power to authorize, justify and then whitewash waterboarding and other prisoner torture in the 2003-2006 Abu Ghraib U.S. military prison during the Iraq War to the great detriment of U.S. military culture and precedent.
The electoral word made flesh: let the voters decide if they can in the face of legislative gerrymandering, physical suppression, and from domestic and overseas social media manipulation. Earlier this year (January 16th to acquittal on February 5th), depriving a Senate impeachment trial of any new witnesses in the face of incoming evidence to salvage an incumbent President belonging to the majority political party.
Straight face reversing course one-hundred-eighty degrees to hot-synch “repair & replace” and risk accelerated terminal democracy disease. After so much professed jurisprudence faith and moral conviction, who would be willing to serve themselves up upon the national buffet altar of such a contrived, visibly impugned process? Perhaps Jeanne d ’Arc judicially liberating a Sodom and Gomorrah nation from its culture wars while simultaneously colluding to super-spread partisan principles and coronavirus into the body politic.
A telling metaphor for the recently concluded Amy Coney Barrett hearings guaranteed from the start to usher in the nineth sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice less than two weeks before a presidential election day when more than fifty-six million Americans advance voted in person. Process fault lines laid bare for the world to see: a Senate Majority Leader and Judicial Committee Chair from the former Confederate States of America who had previously deprived an equally qualified Supreme Court candidate from the opposing political party of even one hearing by pleading only ten months to the next presidential election then in 2016.
No need to rehash political pantomime Senatorial hearings choreographed live on network television but pronounced consensually dead on arrival. Kangaroo court justice as fiat, a Harpers Ferry dry run before encroaching civil society storms forming around incoming controversial judicial activism and intervention posing as hallowed scholarship derived by praying to a selected deity and ruminating with departed founding fathers.
An ideological, majority-privileged minority battering and belittling to “own” a rising secular America, winning through the courts what it loses at the polls and in evangelical church generational membership rosters. Flight of the democratically dispossessed in favor of the reconstructionist obsessed.
A self-infecting nation, first opioids and now coronavirus at the latest rate of over 70,000 daily, with hundreds of thousands already departed, many dying alone. An unchecked biomedical pandemic brought to crescendo deliberately by a U.S. Senate declining to engage tsunamis of food poverty, homelessness and precariat evictions, pervasive generational and racial despair, frontline community economic class abandonment.
Generational epitaphs tracing out the scarred furrows of societal inequalities, stacking the bodies in gated community moats repurposed as locked down, social distancing trenches. An America exceptional for its self-righteousness, embedded racism, hypocritical ugliness, and fatally divisive cultural inferiority failing its own people in pandemic droves.
To face this latest “heart of darkness”, Conradian “horror of it all”, what are the cultural implications and practice differentials between judicial “originalism” or “textualism” and religious fundamentalism? Should a secular democracy strictly or symbolically interpret the Bible, Koran, Veda, Tripitaka, its own Constitution? Is fundamentalist Christian “Sharia” law regarding a women’s right to choose just as Talibanic as its Muslim offshoot counterpart?
Whether bible thumpers or constitutional thumpers, what is the “right to life” imposition differential defined by limiting freedom for those who believe the Sabbath was conceived to serve mankind and not the reverse? How to square such fervent concerns for those not yet born with so much current cultural disdain, cruelty, and conspiracy against those already alive to the extent that both hard facts on the ground and the universe of “alternative facts” fail to offer life sustaining alternatives?
What better contemporary term to describe tyranny of the minority intoxicated with its overwhelming judicial power stolen from a rising popular majority than “owning the libs”. No phrase could be more evocative of America’s four-hundred-year slaveocracy resurrected through the high courts to contaminate process legacy, extrapolating precedents out of imaginary whole cloth. Look no further than Bush versus Gore 2000.
“Owning the Libs” in 2020 through the courts represents a next logical philosophical beachhead for America’s existential “Plantation Economy” values-imperialists. Unchaining “political correctness” in 2016 from any civic society morality and ethical moorings unleased animal spirits producing this intended result five years later. “We’ve only just begun, white lace and promises” to own downwards in a post-truth society.
Controlling the lives, liberties, dreams, and destinies of humanity during a pandemic becomes more than a “great reveal” because there’s no curtain to pull back, no Oz, just “Q”. In the all-out quest to possess America’s soul, who gets to decide when the ends justify the means in a democracy supposedly “of, by and for the people” if the latest Supreme Court aspirant to administer the nation’s justice herself “declines to endorse a peaceful transfer of power”?
If America’s self-governing process no longer stretches for melting pot multi-dimensionality, inclusivity, and pragmatic consensus building, how does it remain additive? Binary results are omnipresent: winners and ends justifying the meanest of means, taking all for themselves with gratuitous cruelty and corrupted selfishness replacing tolerance.
America seeks indispensable justice where process equating to results push the country upwards so that neither sin nor salvation are merely personal. Indispensable justice that socializes each and every community towards inclusive salutatory destinies where collective results define a transcendent and transformative people. Where willingly inspired plank holders of an uncommon, common good encourage the mosaic healing whole to do much more than simply sum up its originalist parts and keep triumphant score with resounding gongs or clanging cymbals.
In a justly led constitutional federal democratic republic, legislative ends ambushed and sabotaged by imposed “might makes right” partisan means, never achieve sustaining consent of the governed. Scoring deeply contested culture points for vengeance and retribution clothes the nation’s highest court in the robes of anachronistic and fundamentalist, originalist religion to straitjacket a living secular Constitution in the face of a rising American mosaic.
Pennsylvania’s Senator Specter understood a decade ago that high ideals accompanied by an unworthy process cannot legislatively consummate for the nation to breathe freely. Two days before the expected Barrett confirmation, Alaska’s Senator Murkowski tried, like Solomon, to split the baby by opposing the proceedings while voting for the end result. James 2:10 – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” All are enablers.
As this is human injustice, not divine, the “libs stay owned” and the plantation cause endures.