“When you present problems with no solutions, you are whining,” says a Democratic candidate for the Virginia General Assembly. The observation has application in a great number of instances, especially where and when the whiners are conservatives criticizing a proposal from the opposing camp. Sometimes, the antipathetical statement makes no sense or is, in fact, simply one that had been an opportunity for the whiner to champion.
American jurisprudence has undergone substantial evolution, especially related to criminal justice and, particularly, the criterion “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Prosecutorial misconduct including jury selection and scientific evidence procedures such as DNA analysis have unearthed miscarriages of justice that have shocked the public.
Appeals of criminal convictions often produce results at odds with those of trial courts for both procedural and substantive reasons of prosecutorial (including police conduct) and judicial errors. The function of appellate review ensures as far as possible that a verdict was rendered beyond a reasonable doubt.
Virginia is alone among the 50 states without a provision granting an automatic right of appeal for criminal and civil litigants. Under current Virginia law, the only cases granted automatic hearings with the appeals court are those involving domestic issues, such as divorces and adoptions; workers compensation claims; and administrative law cases. In all other civil cases, people must ask the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Virginia, to hear their appeals.
At present, such intermediate appeals are heard by the 11-member Court of Appeals. Governor Northam and some Democrats in the General Assembly have proposed adding four to six new justices to the court to accommodate the need for broader appellate review opportunities. Sound like a solution? Not so fast: there are whiners in the mix.
“What they want to do is add very left-wing, progressive, liberal justices on what is currently a very reasonable Court of Appeals that does a very good job. This is court packing,” said Del. Jason Miyares, a Republican and former prosecutor who is running for attorney general.
“What they want to do is add very left-wing, progressive, liberal justices on what is currently a very reasonable Court of Appeals that does a very good job. This is court packing,” said Del. Jason Miyares, a Republican and former prosecutor who is running for attorney general. Other than the delegate’s assertion of the “very good job’ the court does, there is no mention of any need for an expanded appellate bench. That, of course, is “court packing.” An enlarged appellate court “packed” with “very left wing, progressive, liberal justices”? An affront to the core notion of fairness! (As opposed to adding very right-wing, conservative justices to a court that is very unreasonable and does not do a good job.)
In a statement that echoes the “unity and healing” cries from national conservative Republicans, a leading VA GOP gubernatorial personality chimed in with a less combative position indicating a desire to have an opportunity to vote on judicial candidates and buy some time.
Del. Kirk Cox, a former House Speaker, said he recognizes that additional capacity may be needed at the Court of Appeals. But in a statement released by his campaign last month, Cox said any new judges should be staggered over a period of time and appointed by a “nonpartisan merit-based selection committee to ensure this does not become a partisan attempt to remake our well-respected Court of Appeals.” Yeah, that procedure eliminates any partisan investment in solving the need for increased court membership. The Republican responses are painfully absent either a recognition of need or a counter solution. And who will decide upon the “nonpartisan merit-based selection committee”?
Expansion of the Court of Appeals has been a matter of discussion for at least two decades, a period of time in which Republicans could have undertaken reform. Now, in 2021, when a reform proposal emerges, the response is full-on partisan whining. Is there a conscience of a conservative? Have they all been created in a laboratory from the DNA of Mitch McConnell or Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz?
At the national level, Democrats have put forth a proposal to expand voter registration and facilitate participation in the electoral process. The concepts are in writing in H.R.1, called the “For the People Act”, and a similar bill, S. 1, in the Senate. According to Fox’s loudest whiner, Tucker Carlson, the Act “is the foundation of the Democratic Party strategy to control the federal government well into your grandchildren’s middle age” be essentially “nationalizing” voting to look like California’s. Of course, Carlson does not describe the California system. Anything Californian must be bad.
In mind-numbing fashion, Mr. Carlson applies some elemental conservative logic linking the lesson of the January 6 assault on the Capitol building in 1984 Newspeak, stating that “According to the Democrats, the lesson of that terrible day was that we needed more of the corrupt policies that caused it in the first place. We need more mail-in voting, we need more ballot harvesting: More corruption! That will unite the country.”
In mind-numbing fashion, Mr. Carlson applies some elemental conservative logic linking the lesson of the January 6 assault on the Capitol building as 1984 Newspeak, stating that “According to the Democrats, the lesson of that terrible day was that we needed more of the corrupt policies that caused it in the first place. We need more mail-in voting, we need more ballot harvesting: More corruption! That will unite the country.” Sarcasm such as this often fails as persuasion.
Carlson continued his criticism by describing the fraud to be expected at the precinct level:
“Under H.R. 1, [people] could freely go house to house and apartment to apartment collecting unknown thousands of ballots and then dump them all in a ballot drop box. No one would have any idea if those ballots had been tampered with at any point along the way or would there be any way to prove it if they had been tampered with.” In the Carlson dystopia, expanded voter registration and participation cannot be a good end. After all, the more people vote, the more they vote Democratic. Can’t have that. There is no solution to providing a means to those ends, only the danger of one party accumulating increased political control or perpetrating fraud upon the other.
It may seem like a great distance from court reform in Virginia to the opinion of a Fox News commentator but the cognitive connection seems close. While Rene Descartes brought the phrase “I think, therefore I am” to the world in 1644 (Principles of Philosophy), conservative Republicans have transmogrified that proposition by wrangling logical thought into self-serving political parlance and cognitive processes resulting in whining as dialogue..
To think and be a conservative, especially a Republican one, means never to be required to propose a solution; simple whining is sufficient. It’s an exhausting journey to enter and escape an unending series of rabbit holes in tracking the messages of the whiners. In the schoolyards of our youth, the retort in many unwanted or tense challenges was, “Your mother!” Carlson, Cox, and their ilk evoke a similar gut response.