Donald Trump and his GOP have now set the Democrats up for another political whooping — this time over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. The Dems are predictably initiating their “fight” to successfully resist the nomination by attempting to wrangle a couple of GOP votes against Trump’s nominee, while all but conceding defeat at the outset.
As soon as the official confirmation process begins (which is perilously close), barring an unforeseen development of material consequence, the Democrats will have lost. Once again, they will have defaulted to playing inside the GOP’s political frame (“we control the Senate”) and if/when Kavanaugh is inevitably confirmed, the Dems will resort to whining about the fact that they were outnumbered 51/49.
Let us not forget, the reason the GOP can even think about ramming Kavanaugh through the Senate right now is because after their wins in the 2016 election, they changed centuries-old Senate confirmation rules. Instead of sticking to the historical 3/5 majority needed for successful confirmation, they lowered the number to 51% (the “nuclear option”), enabling them to bypass the need for traditional Senate bi-partisan support. They also teed up the possibility that they would get to place two or more new Supreme Court justices during Trump’s term.
And to be clear, contrary to the intended non-partisan nature of the court, the GOP’s picks are designed to be right-of-center “activist” judges, committed to implementing partisan policy at the Supreme Court that the GOP has been unable to implement through Congress.
The GOP “leadership” did this because they finally controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. They know that nothing is forever, so they’re out to grab as much long-term power as possible, while they can (certainly before the Mueller investigation or the November election concludes).
Whether or not it is ethical, hypocritical, or undermines the intent of the law is of no concern or consequence. The end justifies the means.
And let’s not forget the dubious timing of Justice Kennedy’s resignation. He wasn’t sick. There were no special circumstances, other than an obvious plan to allow Trump’s GOP a Supreme Court pick before either the November election or Mueller’s conclusions might cast doubt as to the appropriateness of Trump making another Supreme Court nomination.
The Democrats admittedly have only 49 Senate seats, so their current position is that they need to attract at least one, and preferably two, Republican senators to vote with them -- to oppose Trump’s nominee.
But they are still operating in a paradigm where they need to first participate in the confirmation process, and then they need to muster 51 votes to win. It’s an absurdly slim possibility, an uphill battle out of the gate, and defeat is likely, if not guaranteed.
Blue-dog Democrats are already feeling the pressure to provide a “yes” vote on Trump’s nominee, in order to avoid the wrath of red state voters in November, supposedly. And who can blame them? After all, the Dems can’t win anyway with only 49 votes, right?
Wrong. There’s another strategy available — one where the Democrats can “win” with only 49 Senate seats. Here’s what they can do, right away:
- Schedule a well-publicized “special” press conference on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building, an event that will be broadcast “live” by every media outlet across the country, including Internet news sites and aggregators (a proven Trump formula: public anticipation for “the great reveal”).
- At the special press conference, every single Democrat senator, all 49 of them, line up together, facing the nation directly, speaking as one, to assert the following (essentially):
- We have assembled every single Democratic senator here today, to address the American people directly, on a matter of immense importance — the choosing of a new United States Supreme Court justice.
- All of us have decided to stand together to completely boycott the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee and we want you, the American public, to understand why. We will not participate in the confirmation process based on the following:
- We are relying on the precedent set by Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell in 2016, when he and his GOP colleagues refused to even consider President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, for more than a year. They insisted at that time that the country could put off more than 10 months the very consideration of Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, because the almost one year-away election would give the voters an important say in who should get to make the court pick. The long delay was essential to justice being served, or so they insisted. Now, with less than 4 months until the mid-term election in November, why shouldn’t the voters should be entitled to the same input in the court pick?
- The Mueller investigation has not yet come to an end, but there have already been more than 20 arrests or indictments, and a multitude of other actions are imminent. There is the very real chance that the Special Counsel’s investigation is about to reveal criminal behavior on the part of President Trump, and/or his family members, political allies and possibly members of his administration. A constitutional crisis is a real possibility if Trump resists the rule of law as it applies to him. A huge cloud hangs over the presidency, and until it is resolved one way or another, the choice of a new United States Supreme Court Justice must not be awarded to someone who may soon be pleading his case to the Supreme Court.
- It would be an enormous conflict of interest for Trump to pick the person who will be charged with judging his actions. This reason alone warrants a boycott of the nomination process, at very least until the voters have spoken in November. In truth, there should be no Trump nominee even considered until Mueller’s investigation is complete, whenever that is, and whatever its results may be.
- This is a moment in American history that will stand out into posterity. We need to affirm the principles that this country was founded on. Therefore, we are inviting our fellow senators on the other side of the aisle to join us in doing what is right. This is not a partisan issue. History will judge us not for what we may have said at the podium, but for what actions we did or did not take at this fateful time in our country’s history. We are appealing to our GOP colleagues to put country above party, and to join us in boycotting this ill-advised and hypocritical Supreme Court coup by the GOP “leadership.”
Can the Democrats muster all 49 of their U.S. senators to take this public, unified stand, based on the arguments and facts presented above, explained directly to the American people in a special televised event? If so, they will have finally demonstrated that they actually stand for something, and are both willing and able to go to the mat, united, to prove it.
If the Republicans are denied any participation by even a single Democratic senator, the hurried nomination process will be exposed as a partisan sham so egregious that virtually half of the entire Senate was willing to go on the record by boycotting the process. That alone will command the media's attention and corresponding national conversation.
The Democrats won’t lose a senate vote, because they won’t be participating in a vote. They will instead reestablish themselves as senators worthy of the sacred roles in our democracy that they have been entrusted with, by refusing to legitimize the GOP’s illegitimate rush to grab power at the expense of integrity.
Some might say that taking the 49% stand described above would mean abandoning a promising Democratic effort to enlist at least one Republican in opposing Trump’s nominee in the traditional manner. To the contrary — if a GOP senator can be persuaded to vote against Trump directly, they can certainly be persuaded to not participate in the process at all (to effectively abstain). It’s probably even more likely if those key Republican senators witness a united 49-person stand by Democrats.
On the other hand, if the Democrats can’t galvanize their own 49 members to take a public stand on so important an issue with such long-term ramifications, then why should anyone believe they are capable of organizing any national effort to counter the GOP/Trump nominee? Or any other national effort, for that matter?
The Democrats need to humbly take a lesson from Donald Trump, the master of media manipulation. They need to command the public moment by doing something that is both out-of-the-box and authentic, in both tone and resolve. That combination has been part of Trump’s winning-formula for years. Now it is time for the Democrats to step up, take back the mic, and take a stand for the integrity of our democracy.
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