I have had the honor of guest writing for the blog of my dear friend Scott Austin. Blog! The Musical takes that age-old truism to heart: everything is better as a musical. I drew inspiration for my new musical comedy from the battle over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, heating up now in Washington. Here’s a first look at my submission!
You Got A Right: A Gospel Tribute to the Supreme Court
It is 2009, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired only one clerk for the Court’s term. The clerk is studious and ambitious, and dreams of becoming a Supreme Court Justice herself one day. On the clerk’s first day of work, she approaches Stevens at his desk and asks him why he has chosen so little help this year. He confides that he will leave the Court this term. He laments his departure after many years of service, but reaffirms that he’s made the correct decision (“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”). The clerk protests that the liberal wing of the Court will have no leader without Stevens, but he will not be moved.
That night, the clerk tosses and turns in bed. Unable to understand Stevens’ decision, she questions her own ambitions to join the Court. The spirit of Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits her, to warn her of the challenges to come for liberals on the Court, but also to remind her not to give up on her dream of becoming a Justice just yet. Sotomayor offers to show the clerk the real Supreme Court, to remind her to follow her passion. Together, they sing “Rock-A My Court,” as they fly into the air and travel to the Supreme Court’s inner chamber. The spirits of Chief Justice John Roberts and the other seven justices greet them at the bench and introduce themselves (“This Little Court of Mine”). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg steps forward and, together with Sotomayor, appeal to the clerk to become the third woman on the bench (“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”). While the idea of female camaraderie is certainly appealing, the whole Court agrees that the powerful, fence-sitting Justice Anthony Kennedy controls tough split decisions on the Court (“He’s Got The Whole Court In His Hands”). The clerk is lured away from Sotomayor by the soulful descant solos of Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito, and by Kennedy’s promises of influence and fame. Sotomayor protests, but is powerless to stop her. The curtain closes as the clerk walks into the open arms of Kennedy, who hurries her away.
The second act opens with Justice Clarence Thomas’s silent interpretive dance in the empty court room (“I Shall Not Be Moved”). The clerk enters with Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative leader on the Court. She listens as Scalia counsels her that there “Ain’t No Statute High Enough” to stop the Court’s conservative wing. To drive his point home, Scalia conjures sad scenes of justices past, first of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at her husband’s deathbed, and then of Justice David Souter sitting alone in a cottage in the backwoods of New Hampshire, singing to his woodland friends (“Run, O’Connor, Run / Go Tell It On The Mountain”). Horrified at the way former justices have fallen, the clerk is about to give up her dream when Sotomayor reappears. She is furious at the seductive reasoning of the court’s right wing and tears the clerk away, reminding her that “There Is A Balm In Washington,” and that she must not give up hope. With the conservatives gone, the liberal justices join together in a candlelight vigil to appeal, quietly but forcefully, to the power of the White House in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings for Stevens’s replacement (“Obama, Row The Court Ashore”).
Suddenly, the conservative justices reenter, sporting gang colors. They are incensed, and challenge the liberal justices to a dance-off. An all-out battle begins (“Roe v. Wade In The Water”), with the justices showing off their break dancing and beat boxing skills in a hip-hop remix of the classic gospel number. The liberals’ skills are strong, but without the street-savvy stylings of Stevens, they aren’t strong enough, and the conservatives gain the upper hand. The clerk is knocked to the ground by Scalia’s airchair pose, and wakes in her own bed. It was all a dream! Imbued with the drive to aid the fight for justice and the will to serve her country, she marches out to face a new day (“How Great Thou Art (Ode to the Supreme Court)”).
For more parodies like this one, check out The Capitol Steps.