Judge Neil Gorsuch began his confirmation hearings yesterday as he and the Senate Judiciary Committee members made their opening statements. The committee will begin questioning the nominee today.
Whether Judge Gorsuch deserves to be confirmed is not the question for Republicans and many Democrats. As I noted when President Trump nominated him, he seems eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. The larger question has little to do with the judge and everything to do with the state of our culture.
Many Democrats are still furious that Republicans refused to act on President Obama’s earlier nominee; in their view, this was a seat their party should have filled. Others are mindful that Judge Gorsuch would replace Antonin Scalia, preserving the present ideological balance of the Court. Since three of the current justices are in their eighties, Democrats may wait to contest future Trump nominations. And several Democratic senators serve states that voted for Mr. Trump in the election; their political futures may be in jeopardy if they oppose Judge Gorsuch.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans need eight Democrats to side with their fifty-two-seat majority to reach the sixty-vote threshold required to confirm the nominee. If not enough Democrats support Judge Gorsuch, or if the Democrats threaten to filibuster the proceedings, the Republicans can waive the sixty-vote minimum and confirm the nominee by a simple majority. But this so-called “nuclear option” could damage any hopes of bipartisan cooperation on other issues.
In thinking about the partisan divisiveness on display this week, I was drawn to the prescient observations of John Adams, our second president. He wrote in 1789, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
The fact that we have a “democracy” (“power of the people”) does not exempt us from political dysfunction. Mr. Adams: “It is vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. . . . Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.”
What is the solution?
This Founding Father knew that democracy requires morality. Thus, he famously declared, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” When politicians from either party put their careers and parties ahead of the people they serve, the dysfunction they produce proves Mr. Adams right.
The divisiveness of our day is an urgent problem. Consider Mr. Adams’ most troubling observation: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
That’s why it’s so urgent that Christians run for office, pray diligently for those in office, and use our influence to advance the spiritual awakening we so desperately need. Only when we are a “moral and religious people” can we have a government worthy of our best selves.
Jesus’ wisdom is unsurpassed: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). How will you do both today?