Jones: Racist anti-Obama sentiment in Supreme Court imbroglio could backfire

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia during a statement delivered in Rancho Mirage, California February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

THE SUDDEN DEATH of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has again revealed America's racial divide on the powers of the Presidency.

We initially saw that racial schism during the battle over Obamacare. Though Obama's landmark legislation was gleaned from a Republican idea that had worked successfully in Massachusetts, the white-male-dominated GOP declared Obama's signature health-care law a failure before it went into effect. We saw the racial animus again with the fierce resistance to president Obama's executive orders on immigration - orders that looked very much like those previously implemented by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Now, with the Scalia's death, the double standard is once again in effect. But the hypocrisy is even more apparent than it has been in the past, because Republican senators, including the majority leader, are calling for the U.S. Constitution to be thrown out the window in a naked attempt to strip Obama of the powers his office affords.

And in case anyone is unclear on my reasoning, let me be blunt. I believe Obama is being treated this way not just because he is a Democrat, but also because he is black, and the GOP, according to a 2012 Gallup poll, is nearly 90 percent white.

The charge against Obama is being led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who was elected to the Senate in 1984. McConnell is intimately familiar with parliamentary procedure, constitutional law, and, one would think, common decency. But that didn't stop McConnell from releasing a statement that was considered by many to be a rebuke of the president's authority.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," McConnell said just an hour after Scalia's death was confirmed. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

McConnell's supposed reasoning is laughable, because the people have already spoken, and they resoundingly re-elected Obama in 2012. As McConnell knows, Article 2 of the Constitution mandates that the president serves a full four-year term, and has the full authority to nominate Supreme Court Justices anytime within that term if a vacancy should arise. But apparently, McConnell doesn't believe Obama should have the same powers as other presidents. And he's not alone in that thinking.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who is among the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination, told NBC's Meet The Press, "It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don't do this in an election year."

While the statement is technically true, Cruz showed a frightening willingness to manipulate the voting public by making that statement.

On Nov. 30, 1987, only one month before an election year, Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court. In February 1988, Kennedy was confirmed with 97 Senate votes. McConnell - the same senator who now believes the people and not the president should decide - was among those who voted to confirm Kennedy.

Not surprisingly, a mostly white Republican base has failed to call out this rank hypocrisy. But black voters are watching this play out with mounting anger, and they are concluding that now is the time to reengage in the political process, if for no other reason than to make sure Republicans can't force Obama to endure this final indignity.

Given this political reality, McConnell, Cruz and others should rethink their tactics. Because while disrespecting the first black president might play well with the tea-party crowd, it is a dangerous game to play with black voters.

With 24 Republican Senate seats and the presidency on the line in the next general election, the GOP should step back and allow Obama to carry out his constitutional duty.

By doing otherwise they might not destroy Obama. But they certainly risk destroying themselves.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM).