We kicked off the 2017 schedule with a timely and insightful presentation by David Ryden, J.D., PhD, Professor of Political Science at Hope College, and a nationally recognized authority on the Supreme Court and the Presidency.
It was a cold and windy evening, but as the audience members who came from South Haven and as far away as Niles and Grandville began to fill the Lake Michigan College, South Haven auditorium, we realized the Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the upcoming senate confirmation hearings were top of mind for many people in SW Michigan.
David led a lively and engaging conversation with the audience by stepping away from a typical professorial presentation, and inviting audience participation by posing eight questions and offering liberal, moderate, and conservative viewpoints. One of the questions, “How important was the makeup of the Supreme Court in the 2016 Presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory”, was answered with post election data that suggested it was very important in the minds of people who voted for Donald Trump, and may have actually swayed the election result.
Many audience opinions were expressed about the appropriateness of President Obamas nominee, Merrick Garland, not being granted a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee, but from a constitutional perspective, that decision, while frustrating to many, was within the law.
David noted that every US President attempts to “pack the court” with like-minded Justices because it helps assures a President’s legacy. It also provides the president with the opportunity to potentially maintain the balance of the court, reinforce the balance of the court, or, rarely, to substantially change the balance of the court.
He concluded his presentation with a thought that had many audience members thinking about what could be an unintended consequence of selecting a highly conservative justice. Justices who are conservative and closely aligned with the “original intent of the constitution” philosophy tend to view the executive branch with caution and are more likely to dampen the new President’s ability to govern through executive order. In other words, the unintended consequence of a conservative justice would be to throttle the power of the person who selected him as the nominee, President Trump.
We were impressed with the speaker’s depth of knowledge, and equally impressed with the insight of the audience members as demonstrated by their questions. Lots of great audience questions.
All of this, plus an awesome wine and cheese reception with the speaker, made for a fun and enlightening evening. Hope to see you on March 30 for our next presentation. Stay in touch with us by sharing your thoughts.
Contributed by Bob Tolpa and Mark Odland