The Supremes (Politics 101) – Pt. 1

Do you read or listen to the news? Are you interested at all in what’s going on around the country and the world? I’m curious to know how many of you keep up with local, national or world news.

Do you read or listen to the news? Are you interested at all in what’s going on around the country and the world? I’m curious to know how many of you keep up with local, national or world news.

I remember my grandparents sitting down each evening to watch the 6:00 news. There was a familiar face each evening, letting them know what was going on in the world. I know only a handful of people who do that anymore. My dad used to read the paper each day. Newspaper circulation, though, is at an all-time low. I don’t think that’s the way news is delivered much anymore.

I get the news either on the radio or by listening to the first ten or fifteen minutes of “Good Morning America” before I head off to work each day. They usually hit the headlines first, so I get what’s mainly going on and what people are talking about. Then I’ll read commentaries or see what people are talking about in social media. I also really like a Monday-Friday email I get called “The Skimm,” that summarizes the main stories in a way you can really understand what’s going on. I recommend it, and you can sign up for it for free on their website at TheSkimm.com.

Although I don’t think you necessarily need to listen to the 6:00 news or read the paper, I do think it is important to stay informed. Why? The number one reason is your voice. In the United States you have the right to vote and affect change. And if for no other reason, you should stay informed so you can vote in a way that will make the world a better place for you and your children and grandchildren one day.

This blog and the next, I’m going to dedicate to talking about two big things going on in the United States government right now (Fall 2018). They are the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, and the mid-term elections coming up in November.

Today – let’s talk about the Supremes. We’re going to start at the beginning and do a little 8th grade social studies refresher.

Our government is made up of three branches. Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

    1. The legislative branch is Congress. Congress is divided into two parts or “chambers” – the House of Representatives and the Senate.
    2. The executive branch is the president.
    3. Then the judicial branch is the Supreme Court.

executive branch clipart

Think of it like this.

  • The main job of Congress is to make laws.
  • The main job of the president is to enforce the laws.
  • And the main job of the Supreme Court is to interpret the laws.

When our founding fathers created the three branches of government, they did it to create a “check and balance” system, so that no one branch of our government could become too powerful.

For example, Congress may try to pass a law, but the president may veto it. But then Congress can override that veto with a two-thirds vote. Another example is that the Supreme Court can declare the law unconstitutional and throw it out completely. If you aren’t too crazy about our current president, you can rest assured that the decisions he makes aren’t without restraint

The Supreme Court is made up of nine judges. They are appointed by the president, and are appointed for a lifetime commitment. They can retire, but usually they serve until their death. There are only four living ex-judges right now – who did retire.

When a judge retires or dies, that leaves an open spot, and the president gets to appoint someone. If there’s one thing that really leaves a legacy for a president, it’s getting to appoint a Supreme Court judge. They find someone who leans the same way they do – conservative or liberal – and that they think will do a good job serving the country for the rest of his or her life. That’s why some people may vote in a president who they don’t particularly like, but they think he will appoint a conservative or liberal judge to the Supreme Court.

We have an open spot right now, so there are currently eight sitting judges.

1 appointed by George Bush (the dad)

2 appointed by George W Bush

2 appointed by Bill Clinton

2 appointed by Barack Obama

And 1 appointed by Donald Trump

President Trump actually came into office with one spot open, after the death of a judge during the last year of President Obama’s term. Congress wanted to wait until the new president was elected to get a new judge, so President Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch, and he was confirmed.

Of the eight, the Court currently has five men and three women. The first woman to be a Supreme Court judge was Sandra Day O’Conner, appointed in 1981, and who retired in 2006 to spend time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s one of the four retired judges still living.

The three women on the court are number #2,3 & 4. One of the women is Sonia Sotomayer, who is the first Hispanic judge. There is only one African-American judge, Clarence Thomas, who is also the longest serving judge on the court right now. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American justice, in 1967. There was recently a movie about his life, called Thurgood.

Well now there’s another spot open, because one of the judges has just retired, and the president has nominated Brett Kavanaugh.

That’s what’s been in the news lately. The confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh is conservative, like Gorsuch, and with two more conservative judges, people wonder what that will mean – like will they even overturn Roe vs. Wade – unlikely but possible. So conservatives are for him, and liberals are against him, generally speaking.

Even though we say the president is appointing a judge, they are actually just nominating him and Congress has to vote on him. Almost always they are approved, because the president will usually only nominate someone they think can pass.

But Congress grills the nominee in confirmation hearings. The confirmation process can last a month or two, and has a lot of attention not just in the press, but also advocacy groups, who lobby senators to confirm or to reject a nominee depending on whether their track record aligns with the group’s views.

The Senate Judiciary Committee conducts hearings and votes on whether the nomination should go to the full Senate with a positive, negative or neutral report.

So you as a voter don’t get to vote on him, but you vote for the people who vote – that’s important to know.

Well, I feel like I should end this one with “The More you Know!”

Hope you find this helpful to understand what’s going on in the news right now.

Talk to you in the next blog post about something else big in the news! Don’t miss it!

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