This Day In History: Sandra Day O’Connor Confirmed For SCOTUS [VIDEO]

This Day In History: Sandra Day O’Connor Confirmed For SCOTUS [VIDEO]

This Day In History: Sandra Day O’Connor Confirmed For SCOTUS [VIDEO]

Does anyone still remember when judges who were nominated for the Supreme Court were evaluated on the merits of their judicial expertise, and not subjected to an ideological catfight? On this day in 1981, President Reagan’s nominee, Sandra Day O’Connor, was unanimously confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The vote was 99-0, with only one senator missing the vote.

O’Connor’s nomination illustrates how the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches function together. As the document shows, President Reagan nominated her to replace retiring Justice Potter Stewart. The nomination then went to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducted hearings to evaluate her qualifications. While the Judiciary Committee was impressed with her knowledge and intelligence, O’Connor’s nomination was also supported by prominent Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, and Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. After the hearings were completed, the full Senate voted to confirm O’Connor on September 21, 1981 by a vote of 99-0.


Image: President Ronald Reagan’s Nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, August 19, 1981 – RG 46, Records of the United States Senate, National Archives

This was not the last time in modern history that a Supreme Court justice was nominated by a president and sailed through the process, but it was the last time that the Senate procedures ran smoothly. What happened next? Well, Justice Antonin Scalia was the next nominee, and while he also received a unanimous vote (yes, Scalia got a 98-0 vote), the process was overshadowed by Senator Ted Kennedy’s complaints about William Rehnquist being nominated to the Chief Justice role – something that Joe Biden would apparently regret later. Were the Rehnquist and Scalia confirmations the foreshadowing of what was to come?

You decide, because Robert Bork happened next.

This was such a hugely and nakedly partisan move, and so unheard of at the time, that “borking” became a colloquial verb. But from the Democrats’ point of view, it was totally worth it. Robert Bork never made it to the Supreme Court, and Anthony Kennedy, who was largely seen as a moderate, would get the appointment instead – with a unanimous confirmation, no less.

In the decades since, there has not been any unanimous confirmations, and starting with the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, things have only gotten more acrimonious. It’s gotten so bad that even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, beloved by the left and who only received a few “nay” protest votes against her nomination, has noticed.

“The way it was, was right,” she said, referring to her own hearings in 1993 when, as a former lawyer for the ACLU, she was confirmed 96-3.

“The way it is, is wrong,” she added.

Ginsburg was interviewed by Goodwin H. Liu, a former clerk who now sits on the California Supreme Court.

Ginsburg said that now both parties move in lockstep.

“I wish I could wave a magic wand and have it go back the way it was,” she said.

Well, Justice Ginsburg is right. It is a shame that we are so deeply entrenched in ideological lines.

It’s also a shame that the Democrats see the Supreme Court as the ultimate authority, when it is supposed to be a co-equal branch of government. It’s a shame that Congress refuses to pass real laws and legislation, and that the courts have been left to interpret things as they see fit. And it is a shame that this week has turned into a political eternity because of Senator Dianne Feinstein refusing to behave appropriately with information she was given, at the time she received it. I can’t stress this enough – whether you believe Judge Kavanaugh is the target of an 11th hour hit job, or you believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, it is an undeniable fact that Feinstein screwed this up. This political circus is completely of HER making.

In the political reality we now live in, a week is now an eternity, and the Democrats are determined to drag the circus out for as long as possible to get what they want. What they want is revenge for Merrick Garland. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not they have enough cards in the deck to play the hand they want. And it’s anyone’s guess if the GOP has enough cards left, either. The era of Sandra Day O’Connor and her unanimous confirmation of 37 years ago has been over for a long, long time.

Anyone else just want all of this to be over?

Featured photo: Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C. (via Pixabay)

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