Antonin Scalia has fallen. Many liberals are cheering. I am not.
Scalia’s nearly three-decade tenure as a Supreme Court justice was a disaster for social progress in this country. And though in recent days conservatives have been passing around homey portraits of him as a collegial benchmate and doting grandpa, I will shed no tear.
Still, I’ll miss him. And that’s because we needed him—God help us, we on the left needed Antonin Scalia.
Faced with the pressing question of choosing a Supreme Court nominee to fill Scalia’s seat, the right’s misguided hand-wringing has centered on which biracial, gender-nonconforming satanist President Obama might want to jam down Congress’s throat, or what a goat rodeo the procedural posturing between the executive and the legislative branches will be over the next year or so. But this conjecture misses the point. What liberals should focus on is how on earth we can possibly replace a Sith lord of such potency. Scalia had the leering, finger-steepling excellence of a first-rate Bond villain. We now have no adversary of sufficient skill and smarts to galvanize us. There’s always Dick Cheney, but he’s been pretty muted of late. That’s partly attributable to the mellowing effects of shooting a friend in the face—and also that he spends his days suspended in a vat containing a restorative slurry of bone marrow harvested from Sierra Club lawyers and ACLU staffers and topped off with light, sweet crude.
If you offer up Donald Trump as the heir to the arch-nemesis throne, I will laugh in your face. Trump is a semisentient honey badger we startled out of his decades-long nap when we opened the lid of his tanning bed, where he lay dozing on a dimly understood copy of Atlas Shrugged. If history remembers him at all, it will be as the air-horn blast triggering the cultural avalanche that sends us plummeting into the Idiocracy-style dystopia we deserve. The rest of the pandering clown-car passengers that spill out onto the GOP debate stage don’t even warrant mention.
But Scalia—there was a magnificence to that oily man-frog. It was easy to imagine him seated in a moodily lit conference room paneled with the last planks of some now extinct species of rainforest tree, presiding over the arch-conservative cabal that seeks the final consolidation of all remaining capital into the pallid fists of the Kochs and Waltons, one that would usher in the reversal of every gain made by persons of color, persons whose sexual orientation is “suspect”—a council that would remake the nation into a docile, churchgoing populace of the gullible and unaborted, a place where the streets, along with the rest of the country’s crumbling infrastructure, are paved with guns.
Scalia was a titan, a paragon of nefarious masterminding. Plus he seemed like he was having fun. He was like a contestant on MTV’s smack-talking game show Yo Momma who’d eaten a legal dictionary. Sure, he was standing on the necks of the downtrodden, but damn it, he did so with style. And yeah, he was callous in his disregard of vast categories of his fellow citizens, be they gay, nonwhite, or noncorporations, but he was funny as hell about it. I mean, accusing fellow justices of “interpretive jiggery-pokery” or calling their reasoning “pure applesauce“? That shit was gold.
If the left is to have any hope of rallying resources of moxie and cunning, we need a suitably gifted adversary. If progressives are ever to unleash the inner Sherlock, that hero who arrives at the elegant solution to even the thorniest case, we must have a Moriarty to contend with. Because bereft of somebody as sharp-witted and unrelenting as Scalia, we are in danger of reverting to the waffling and in-fighting to which we are already too easily prone. We need the clarifying force of an evil genius. Without it we are doomed to be precisely the kind of ineffectual eggheads Fox News claims we are.