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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


History suggests Johnson should do his job

During election years, 21 Supreme Court Justices have been appointed to nation’s highest court
Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Many people far more important than a sparsely read University of Wisconsin student have requested many times that Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and the rest of the United States Senate need to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Nonetheless, I will use my platform to badger Johnson until he does his job.

In the immediate aftermath of Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia’s death, it was semi-understandable that Johnson and other Republicans in the Senate would play hardball and insist they would not allow Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, on to the court.


This is, after all, the gridlocked, ineffective U.S. Congress we all know and despise.

But now, weeks later and after Garland turns out to not only be a fairly universally respected man, but also very moderate compared to previous presidential appointees, this is getting absurd.

Johnson and his Republican colleagues insist that history suggests Obama should not appoint a nominee within his final year.

That just isn’t true.

A total of 14 presidents have appointed 21 Supreme Court Justices in presidential election years.

Six presidents appointed Supreme Court Justices after their successors had already been elected but not yet sworn in.

Even President Ronald Reagan, the poster boy for the modern Republican Party (who, I might add, was considerably less conservative than the current party), nominated Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in his final year in office.

Kennedy continues to be an incredibly moderate Justice, and most believe Garland would be too.

For the record, Democrats did not control the Senate that year. Not only did they hold hearings,  not a single member of either party voted against the confirmation of Kennedy.

This situation seems incredibly similar, except the Republican Party continues to prove their inability to effectively govern this country, insisting they won’t even hold hearings on the president’s nominee.

The president’s party does not matter, nor which side holds the majority in the Senate. It is the president’s job to appoint a Supreme Court Justice when a seat opens.

It is the U.S. Senate’s job to hold hearings on the appointee’s qualifications. Then, if the candidate is qualified and properly vetted, the person will become a Supreme Court Justice.

It’s pretty simple.

It is Johnson’s job to help the democratic process run as those who built the country intended. Frankly, even without history on the side of Obama, this should be a no brainer for Johnson.

Even if you disregard the fact that a fairly large majority of Americans want to see Senate hearings for the nominee, it still doesn’t make sense for Johnson to completely reject the idea. And yes, even though he is “open to a meeting” with the nominee, he is outright rejecting hearings.

After promising Wisconsinites change and an end to the gridlock in Washington, the past six years have been completely dismal for Johnson.

Not only has he been almost entirely ineffective as a senator, he has actively added to partisanship and the inability of congress to govern.

Just a guess, but his unwillingness to work with congressional Democrats is probably why nearly every poll from the time former Sen. Russ Feingold announced his candidacy has shown Johnson to be trailing by double digits.

I don’t think this current situation has lost Johnson any more support than he already had from being a completely ineffective and nearly invisible senator, but it certainly hasn’t helped. Then again, it is nearly impossible to be down by more than twelve points in a swing state like today’s Wisconsin.

But generally, when reelection is less than eight months away, most swing voters would probably like to see their elected senator doing something to help end partisan gridlock, not make it worse.

Despite my wish to see him voted out in November, I will offer Johnson this once in a lifetime advice to gain in Wisconsin polls: do your job. Make your voice heard amongst your party and at least push for hearings.

If you want to win over Wisconsin independents who are clearly disenchanted by your time in office, it should probably start with allowing the Supreme Court to function with the number of justices it was meant to.

By continuing to tow the party line and acting as a leader for the group refusing to hold these hearings, you are further digging your already deep political grave.

If you decide to keep this going though, Johnson, it’s fine by me.

Come January it will be rather hilarious to watch Feingold take back his seat and vote to accept the nomination of a far more liberal nominee when Trump loses the general election to the Democrats.

Connor Touhey ([email protected]is a junior majoring in journalism, political science and history.

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