Amigo, my favorite news junkie, announced the news: Supreme Court Antonin Scalia found dead at age 79, most likely of natural causes.
My first reaction: wow.
My second reaction: I hope President Obama makes a nomination quickly, because today’s Congress and Senate will fight him tooth and nail. The approval process may linger until Obama’s successor is elected and inaugurated.
Social Media and traditional outlets were going wild with both the news and the reactions. Here’s a taste.
“I am stunned by the loss of Justice Scalia…And while I frequently disagreed with Justice Scalia’s views, our country will remember him as one of the most powerful and consequential voices of his generation.” – Russ Feingold, candidate for Senate in Wisconsin
Control of the nation’s top court now hangs in the balance. –Huffington Post
Next, unfortunately, came several headlines and links exclaiming “GOP vows to block any Obama nominee!”
Make no mistake, people. President Obama is the type of person who probably put a plan in place early in his tenure in case the opportunity arose to nominate a new justice. This is the type of appointment that can have an impact long after he leaves office. A good-for-life appointment to the Supreme Court has the potential to last years beyond any legislation passed in the past 7 years – including the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s opponents likely had a plan in place, too. Their plan is consistent in its predictability: opposition. If Obama says green, they say red. If he points up, they point down. If the President leans left, they pull to the right and pull hard.
This philosophy of obstruction reminds me of students with an ODD diagnosis – Oppositional Defiant Disorder. A young person with ODD is much like today’s ultra-conservatives. Rather than setting up their own possibilities for success, they prepare to block anything set up by another. Teaching kids with ODD is difficult because the students are all too predictable; if the teacher says out, they will say in. If the work is to be done in pen, they’ll do it in pencil, just because they can.If the teacher says “Sit down” the students might stand up, kick a chair over, or even take off running through the halls – anything but cooperate.
One philosophy we teachers learn is that it’s not important to have the last word; it’s more important to have the lasting word. Rather than push a child to the point of total refusal, we state the necessary behavior and then back off, monitoring the child while not going head to head. This gives the student the chance to save face while still complying with the teacher’s request.
In this script, President Obama is the teacher. Certain individuals (fill in the blank here, folks, you know you can) play the parts of ODD students in the drama. No matter what (or whom) he suggests, they will squeal loudly in opposition just because they can. Meanwhile, the President will work quietly and calmly behind the scenes, building rapport and gathering the votes necessary to approve the nominee. When all is said and done and the new justice is seated on the Supreme Court, President Obama will have had the lasting word – a nominee to last a lifetime.