In enduring some political rhetoric the other day I was really put-out with something Ted Cruz said. He was angry (of course) about President Obama’s decision to nominate a candidate for the Supreme Court. Like others his feelings are that the new president should be the one to make that decision.
But what really irritated me were his comments that should the President be able to have his candidate confirmed, this candidate for the Supreme Court would, by virtue of his or her opinions, nullify everything that was central to the American way of life. Candidate Cruz has no love for the Supreme Court even though he served as a clerk in the Supreme Court. I would wonder at his civics’ classes in school.
Maybe I am incredibly naive (probably so), but I put more faith in the institutions of government than to think one person could bring down this republic. In my studies of history, I remember the story of President Chester A. Arthur. He came to office when President James A. Garfield was assassinated. Arthur, the vice president, was a political hack and a tool of Boss Roscoe Conkling whose gang ran the spoils’ system in New York City. Conkling believed by having Arthur in the White House, he would have control of the civil service jobs. It is said Arthur really agonized over his own position when Garfield died, but when the story was told he informed Conkling that he could no longer be a member of his organization. That the office of president had given him a higher calling. Part of that calling was a massive reform of the spoils’ system that resulted in the establishment of the Civil Service Commission.
When President Nixon resigned there was concern in the government over the possibilities of a military takeover. The transition of power went smoothly and the then Minority Leader of the Senate returned to his office and wrote on official congressional stationery, “Mr. Madison, It worked.” Meaning the Constitution and the processes it outlined for our government worked without any upheaval.
Now granted, it is a political year and it seems this year any person can make the most outrageous comments, comments that are crude and rude, and get away with it. To be angry is the call of the day and rather than moral and civil discourse where issues to help the country are discussed, the candidates seem to be trying to see what they can get away with and what is the limit the public will accept. By the most recent comments floating around and the results of the primaries in South Carolina, we don’t seem to have reached our limit as yet.
Government is more than a personality. Government exists when people have faith in the government and the principles on which it has been founded. When we are aware that the branches of government have endured many different personalities we realize that a sense of history is necessary to get beyond this one moment. All we have to do is look at governments in the Middle East, in Africa and in Central America to see what can happen when poverty and a lack of education allow dictators to rise to power and where a sense of history has no place in the discussion. No one has any faith in anything and nothing endures.
Sometimes what you see is what you get and this year I am very concerned.