Steve Israel, former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is reported to have remarked that “Republicans have always been better than Democrats at playing the long game.” It’s likely that Democrats are experiencing the consequences of that shortsightedness today. But never despair. Democrats have a chance to show that they can formulate long-term strategy and carry it out just like the mean kids did during the past eight years. And maybe a chance to even reap the rewards that accrue to astute and hardheaded political execution.
Of course, Democrats so far have, as usual, dithered. They promised a united front against Orange Dumbo’s cabinet nominees from hell and then they broke ranks and scattered to the wind. But never mind. The most important test was set last night when President Circus Barker announced the winner of his Most Extreme Supreme Court Nominee contest, Judge Neil Gorsuch, on national television (winner and loser summoned to Washington to heighten the suspense). Now we get to see if our Democrats are not only capable of developing a viable strategy, but have sufficient discipline to carry it out.
Elections have consequences, we hear, but Republicans taught us through eight years of obstruction, that those consequences need not always be what they’re supposed to be. The GOP rammed this fact home even more brutally when they sat out the clock on President Obama’s SCOTUS nomiee, Merrick Garland. It took them a whole year, but they hung on. It’s time for Democrats to give them a dose of their own medicine.
But, but, you sputter, we are people of principle. We condemned the naughty Republicans (or at least some of us chided them gently) for doing what you suggest. We stand for civility and good government. To which my response is that that model of government has been well and truly broken, the mean kids broke it, they’re proud of doing it, and will continue to grind the pieces to dust if Democrats don’t begin to get just as down and dirty.
And that means doing whatever is necessary to keep Judge Gorsuch off the Supreme Court. Or at least make it clear that no Democrat in good conscience can countenance his presence there – Republicans will have to own this extremist. And this has to be the message that Missouri progressives and Democrats send to our desperate to be bipartisan Senator Claire McCaskill.
Nor are we being obstructive for the pure hell of it. There’s lots of reasons to stand against Gorsuch apart from the fact that he is being given the seat that should have gone to Merrick Garland – and would have gone to him had Democrats had any sense of urgency about the outcome of the election. Far from a neutral, non-ideological approach to the constitution, Gorsuch’s brand of originalism shows him to be in opposition to most of the jurisprudence of this and the later part of the last century – even the more conservative rulings. The adjective that is consistently used to describe his judicial exercise is “hostile”:
- He is hostile to the power of the Federal government to protect the well-being of its citizens against powerful economic interests. He has expressed opposition to commonly accepted Chevron doctrine that allows agencies to enforce regulations. Even Justice Scalia refused to go where Gorsuch goes in this context.
- He is hostile to the interests of consumers and workers and has ruled consistently and aggressively in favor of corporations and business.
- He is overtly hostile to women’s reproductive rights.
- He is hostile to challenges against the use of excessive force by police.
- He is hostile to environmental regulation.
- He is hostile to the demands of the disabled.
Gorsuch is an ideologically extreme candidate nominated by a president who failed to achieve an electoral majority and whose election was further tainted by almost certain foreign meddling. This is not a president who has a mandate to appoint a destructive ideologue to the people’s court – especially when he is taking the rightful place of the equally well-qualified centrist whose nomination was not even allowed to come to a vote.
If Democrats – and, since I am in Missouri, by Democrats I mean Senator Claire McCaskill – don’t fight this nomination to the bitter end, they will have forfeited any claim on our support. They’ll lose, you say. Who cares? The GOP will kill the filibuster rule, you say. So what? Who needs a a filibuster you can’t use because they’ll take it away from you? And anyway, if they were to do that, employ the nuclear option, it’ll come back to bite them in the behind – and lots of them know that just as well as we do. That’s the way political karma works and it’s time for Democrats to get a little Karma going.
What do we do? Missourians need to keep calling and writing Claire McCaskill. Don’t let up. Let her know that we’ll support her if she supports us. This is not the time for self-interested politicians. And we’ll remember, whatever happens, for good or ill, we’ll remember what all the players did.