Ben Sasse’s two-minute civics class

Ben Sasse gave what David French calls a “short master class in civics and the role of the judiciary in the American constitutional republic.” - Acton

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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I appreciate the courage and thoughtfulness of Sasse's remarks (and I remain a fan) for raising interesting questions, but I don't think his answers are entirely sound.

First, he says the legislative body is supposed to be where political controversy happens, but isn't -- and this is supposed to explain why confirmation hearings are so ugly. This observation doesn't really make sense because the proceedings he is taking part in are in the legislative body and political controversy is in fact happening. So ... while A is happening, he is arguing that it shouldn't be happening and A should be happening instead?

Second, he asserts that the majority of policy is now made in the executive branch in the bureaucracy... all of our agencies and administrations and what not. This is true, but I think it's inevitable. The reason is that our society has grown to be far more large and complex than when the Constitution was drafted, and the laws Congress passes are already extremely long and complex at times (Obamacare being a recent well-known example). 

  • We can increase the accountability of our executive agencies to Congress and reform the rule-making processes to increase the power of the citizens
  • Congress can't effectively micromanage DOJ, HHS, Dept of Commerce, Dept of Ed, and all of their many many subsidiaries.

Third, he argues that the Supreme Court is too politicized... or seems to argue this... and sees this as an explanation for why we now have this tradition of extremely and ridiculously contentious confirmation hearings. Actually, I think the contention we see is the system working as it should. The fight exists because the legislators feel pressure from their constituents to influence who gets on the court - because the court has enormous power. 

So really, the hearings are just one more expression of the polarized philosophical state of the nation, like all the other extreme rhetoric we hear every day now. Confirmation hearings are just one more expression of profound differences of belief on what kind of nation we should be. Sasse is at least using his forebrain. May his tribe increase. But his analysis is off on several points.

(He is right though that the legislators have increasingly tried to get the Court to make tough decisions and effectively legislate. I'm not sure it has so much to do with legislators trying to protect their jobs so much as it has to do with getting progressivism done contrary to public support.)

As an aside: is it just me or does Kavanaugh's "I'm being serious" face look kind of pouty and resentful? Looks much better smiling. Smile