We like to focus on the integrity of politicians. That is, whether they’re honest and forthright, examples of strong values — or not. So often, when we criticize politicians for not serving us as we think they should, we turn to the "i" word. If only they had more integrity, we think to ourselves, what a better world this would be.
This may be true. But perhaps we’re focusing on the incorrect virtue of legislators.
What we should want, more than integrity, is simple pandering. Think of it this way. Majorities of people across the United States oppose filling the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court until after the presidential election. They also back the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights — both of which would be put at risk if the seat goes to hardcore ideologue Amy Coney Barrett.
Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his supporters from the Kansas delegation — Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran — are eager to fill the seat, no matter the consequences or what they may have said when blocking Merrick Garland from filling the late Antonin Scalia’s seat back in 2016.
All three men have loads of explanations for why this time is different than the last, but the main one is simply that they’re Republicans who are interested in seating conservative judges no matter the cost. They understand the polling, they know the risks, but they’re plowing forward.
If anything, they’re showing too much integrity. They’re showing their devotion to their party and their causes.
Republicans could well lose the Senate this year, not to mention the presidency. But they will have seated another Supreme Court justice. They are carrying out the desires of an outspoken minority of voters who support bans on abortion, on limiting health care access to the relatively few wealthy people who can afford it, and who want the Supreme Court to preserve the interests of the powerful for another generation.
Let’s bring back politicians who are simply devoted to doing what voters want. That means waiting until after the presidential election to nominate or confirm a justice. That means ceasing attacks on the ACA and instead strengthening it. And in our state in particular, that means the Kansas Legislature would have expanded Medicaid years ago.
Doing what people want can be the mark of integrity at times — at other times it’s simple expedience. Whatever the case, it’s following the lead of constituents. We hope our Senate delegation comes to their senses and considers doing so.