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With Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and a newly vacant Supreme Court seat, the political madness of 2020 got even madder. But this moment is precisely why so many Republicans voted for Donald Trump despite their misgivings. A conservative majority on SCOTUS has been a signature goal of the party base going back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Now, 40 years later, the opportunity is finally here.
To quote Margaret Thatcher, this is no time to go wobbly. As expected, many are.
The center-right’s appetite for catering to the Democrat base instead of their own is insatiable. In reaction, GOP voters launched the Tea Party movement. When that fizzled, they elected Trump. Many Republicans still haven’t learned this lesson and want to surrender before any battle begins.
At The Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last oddly casts this moment as a “political crisis,” which it most certainly is not. Justice Ginsburg’s passing is a sad event, as is anyone’s death, but it was as inevitable as every other Supreme Court vacancy. We’ve been through this more than 100 times before.
Yet Last believes RBG’s mortality is an unexpected “black swan” event. His solution is to toss aside the simple Constitutional process and replace it with a complex backroom deal:
There are only a handful of ways out of this trap and all of them require the prudential coordination of elites. Which is … not something we have seen a great deal of in the last, say, generation of American life.
Nearly zero voters, left or right, want to be governed by the “prudential coordination of elites.” In fact, the Constitution doesn’t mention “prudential,” “coordination,” or “elites.” It does state that the President is obligated to nominate a jurist and the Senate to provide advice and consent.
Why invent some novel aristocratic contraption when our foundational document provides a simple path forward? These are the rules every elected official — left, right, and center — agreed to uphold since our founding.
One expects knocking knees at The Bulwark, but the demand for some extraconstitutional haggling is spreading.
First, Trump makes his pick.
Second, the Senate applies the Schumer principle and gives the nominee a hearing. This will have the benefit of giving the American people a more-complete picture of the qualifications and philosophy of the nominee and thus the stakes of the presidential election.
Third, the Senate then applies the Graham/Rubio/Cruz rule and does not vote before the election. If Trump wins, they then vote on the nominee.
But what if Trump loses? What principle comes into play? Joe Biden’s own words provide the guide.
In the October 2019 Democratic debate, Joe Biden clearly expressed his opposition to court-packing. “I’m not prepared to go on and try to pack the court,” he said, “because we’ll live to rue that day.” He continued, “We add three justices. Next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”
Goldberg, offering similar advice, adds some context in his LA Times column:
Even before Justice Ginsburg’s demise, Democratic support was building not just for packing the Supreme Court by increasing the number of justices (which Ginsburg opposed), but also for D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood and abolition of the legislative filibuster. Now Democrats are all but vowing to go through with expanding the court in response to a rushed replacement for Ginsburg.
What will be the GOP’s argument against such schemes?
…Moreover, merely on the level of realpolitik, abandoning all considerations other than what you can get away with amounts to preemptive disarmament for the wars to come. The pernicious logic of apocalyptic politics works on the assumption that the long term doesn’t matter. But the long term always becomes now eventually.
Making a too-clever-by-half deal instead of simply following the Constitution is also a type of “preemptive disarmament for the wars to come.” The GOP has the White House and the Senate, while the Democrats have nothing. If the Packers are leading 42-3, they don’t give two touchdowns to the Vikings if they promise to be nice to them in the next game.
Any deal is especially suspect given the Senate Democrats’ abysmal track record on upholding the slightest of norms. A party willing to portray the dullest nominee in SCOTUS history as a high-school drug lord and gang-rapist has no interest in comity or fair play.
French and Goldberg’s deal is better than Last’s but still attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Trump and McConnell hold all the cards; the left has only screaming.
Democrats high and low have already promised to pack the court, create new states, and abolish the electoral college. They have allowed their constituents to create mayhem, attack citizens, destroy businesses, and burn buildings in their cities for three and a half months. This is who they were before RBG died and they will only radicalize further as we move toward the election.
The Republican base has set everything in place for a conservative Supreme Court. It is the party’s obligation to deliver it to them.
Forget “prudential coordination of elites,” it’s time at last for “We the People.”Published in