The soul-selling gamble that paid off

Also worth mentioning that so many Republicans were willing to look past Trump’s transparent unfitness and unsuitability so that they could get a Scalia-like Supreme Court justice.  They got it.  They won.  They put our democratic system at the most risk it’s been in generations (since the Civil War?) for a Supreme Court justice.  Now, they can hope Trump doesn’t irrevocably erode our democracy (though, he’s already clearly making a serious attempt).

Chait on Democrats’ need to show a little spine and force the Republicans to end the filibuster:

Once Mitch McConnell blockaded Barack Obama’s last Supreme Court nomination, and then Donald Trump carried the Electoral College, the chance that Republicans would fill the vacancy rose to 100 percent. Trump chose a well-regarded conservative jurist in Neil Gorsuch, rewarding both McConnell’s decision to mount the blockade and the institutional Republican party’s decision to mostly support Trump. The only choice before Senate Democrats is whether to allow Republicans to claim their reward the easy way or the hard way. They should choose the hard way…

It was clear to some of us several years ago, and has become clear to almost everybody else since, that the rules of politics have changed completely. The old norms presumed that a president can fill a Supreme Court vacancy with a jurist of his own broad philosophical bent, and that the opposing party is only entitled to block a candidate they consider especially unqualified or extreme. (These norms allowed for bitter fights over individual candidates, like Robert Bork, without questioning a president’s right to nominate somebody qualified from his own team.) Those norms are gone. The new norm is that a president needs 50 Senate votes to fill a seat, or it will go unfilled.

It would be better for the health of American democracy to change to rules to something more stable. But pretending otherwise delays rather than hastens the day when some formal rule change comes about. In the meantime, Democrats have an extremely simple choice. They can make McConnell abolish the filibuster, or wait for the day when McConnell attacks them for doing it. It is McConnell, his extraordinary blockade tactic, who has functionally changed the rules of the game. He should be forced to do it in name.

And, I very much enjoyed Mark Joseph Stern’s take on Gorsuch:

Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is a brilliant, witty, handsome, eloquent, perfectly pedigreed judge. He is, to put it another way, an extraordinarily difficult jurist for Democrats to oppose.

Gorsuch, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10thCircuit, is difficult to object to on personal or jurisprudential grounds. Although he is a rock-ribbed conservative, he conveys his ideas fluently and courteously and is well-liked by his colleagues on the left and right. And though his rulings can be reactionary, he has never directly stated his opposition to hot-button legal issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Democrats may argue that Gorsuch is an illegitimate justice in a stolen seat, but the judge himself will not fit easily into the role of a villain. Whatever extreme positions he may hold will be concealed by his humble, articulate demeanor. It seems overwhelmingly likely that Gorsuch will soon sit on the Supreme Court of the United States…

If confirmed, Gorsuch will restore the ideology of the Supreme Court to about where it was before Scalia died. He is vastly more conservative than Judge Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whom Republicans blocked for nearly a year in the hope—now realized—that a Republican might appoint Scalia’s successor. The memory of this ghastly disregard of basic constitutional norms will hang over Gorsuch’s hearings and may even tarnish his legacy. His confirmation process will have the whiff of illegitimacy, which Democrats will attempt to use to keep him off the court. But this strategy seems destined to fail, because it is so difficult to explain what is objectionable about Gorsuch himself. Yes, he is conservative, but he is not a rank partisan like Justice Samuel Alito, or a flame-throwing culture warrior like Scalia. He is a judge’s judge. And he is, in all likelihood, our next Supreme Court justice. [emphasis mine]

So, basically, Scalia without being a jerk (and nobody what you thought of his legal mind, Scalia was a hell of a jerk).  So, we’re status quo ante of last January.  But, what happens next with any retirements likely portends a dramatic change.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to The soul-selling gamble that paid off

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Am I the only one sick and tired of judges with Harvard or other Ivy League backgrounds? How undemocratic is that? No wonder the judges are so out of touch with regular Americans.
    Are the other law schools so worthless?
    Pick for the next nominee someone outstanding from a state university law school and get some diversity on this Supreme Court.

  2. rgbact says:

    I think provoking ending the filibuster is a mistake……although it sounds great to a pure partisan. Mcconnell will certainly do it, and Dems risk having no power if Ginsburg suddenly dies……since they’re clearly in all out block mode. Also, they’ll force vulnerable Dems to join their liberal blockade.

  3. Jeremy Tarone says:

    “Now, they can hope Trump doesn’t irrevocably erode our democracy (though, he’s already clearly making a serious attempt).”

    That’s what Republicans have been doing for some time. That’s why they refused to vote on so many of Obama’s appointments, including his SCOTUS appointment. Republicans have admitted that is what voter ID laws and selected poll closures are about. It’s why they accepted Trump, even after some said they never would. Power for powers sake at any price.

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