The ends and the means

President* Trump,

Yesterday morning when I set out on my walk I didn’t have anything specific in mind to write to you about. I figured something would occur to me in my perusal of the news or in reaction to the day’s poem (which, by the way was incredible and can be read here: https://poets.org/poem/five-horses-doctor-ramon-emeterio-betances?mc_cid=2d4fec3e74&mc_eid=03fcdf422b). After about two blocks, though, the phrase “the end doesn’t justify the means” popped into my head and immediately got paired up with what you/Mitch are doing to replace Justice Ginsberg on your watch rather than waiting for the election results. Even though I learned some things when I Googled the phrase that complicate the story some, I’m going to walk you through what I pieced together myself, pre-the-Googling, and then will attempt to weave in the post-Googling materials.

Ok, so what this means is that for now, we are going with my original understanding that the phrase really is “the end doesn’t justify the means.” I was taught that when one abandons this premise, one is treading on very thin ethical ice because the end is intimately informed by the means and if the means are lacking in integrity, so is the end. This in turn means that whatever the end is, it’s likely to be precarious and unstable and isn’t likely to bring about any real good.

With this in mind, I thought about the irony of you/Mitch using such shitty, unethical power plays to achieve your end of stacking (packing, really) all the Article III courts with conservatives since the judiciary is supposed to be about impartiality, ethical conduct, and justice. Basically, at first, it struck me as a blatant thumbing of the “the end doesn’t justify the means” principle. At first. But then I realized that if your/Mitch’s ends are not courts positioned to work for the greater good (or in this judicial context, upholding impartiality, fairness, justice) then of course there are no limits on the means you/Mitch would feel justified to use to achieve your end.

And yes, I’m painfully aware that this is so f*cking obvious that it shouldn’t have taken any thought at all. It’s completely consistent with the idea that these power-grab actions are not careless, they are not bugs or flaws in the system – they are by design and they are actually meant to lead to more of same.

E.J. Dion basically makes this same case in the WP editorial he published yesterday evening arguing that conservatives have engaged in all sorts of treachery to pack the courts and that it will be in the public’s interest for Democrats to correct the imbalance. He argues that we mustn’t be tripped up by disingenuous accusations that “the Left” is threatening radical, self-serving revisions to the judiciary system because conservatives have been systematically undermining its integrity for decades. Dion points out that your all’s rabid harping on abortion is basically a smoke screen to distract people from the real reasons conservatives have worked so long and hard to slant the federal court system in their direction – that is to prop up corporations and the wealthy by undermining voting rights, environmental protections, labor rights, and social safety nets. It’s a powerful, and I think, important piece: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/capitulating-to-the-right-wont-end-the-judicial-wars/2020/09/23/5402f378-fdd5-11ea-9ceb-061d646d9c67_story.html.

Circling back to my early morning Googling of the end/means phrase, I learned that the original is really “the end justifies the means,” wherein the idea is that if the end is so important (e.g., you could feed all the starving children in the world if you just….”), it (theoretically) doesn’t matter how ethical/unethical the means for achieving that end are. I see now that this is probably the version you/Mitch have been consciously operating under, but I maintain that either one works in this situation since in the end, you don’t care one way or the whether the end justifies the means – you/Mitch and the rest of the cabal just want what you want and will go after it as ruthlessly as is necessary, integrity, and humanity, be damned.

May we be safe from absolutely corrupt power mongers.
May we be willing to vote and protest and agitate like our lives depend on it.
May we be strong and healthy enough to see that our lives do depend on it.
May we accept that correcting the damage to the judiciary will involve making big waves.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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