The Battle to Fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat Could Backfire for Republicans – Or Lead to a Pyrrhic Victory for Joe Biden.
Donald Trump and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell are racing forward with their attempt to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The effort to fill the vacancy is unprecedented – both in its haste, and in its proximity to a presidential election.
It appears that McConnell intends to expedite the process to have it completed, and a new justice sworn in before the election, instead of waiting until the equally viable ‘lame-duck’ session of Congress in January, as defeated or retiring Senators see out the last days of their terms until their successors are sworn in. He seems to have locked-down any wavering or dissenting members of his caucus, with the often maverick Utah Senator Mitt Romney falling in line behind the effort, and only two open dissenters in the form of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Maine Senator Susan Collins. With a Senate majority of 53 to 47, and Vice President Mike Pence on hand to break a tie, McConnell can afford to lose Murkowski and Collins, and still have a majority of two.
McConnell’s rationale seems to be that putting the Supreme Court vacancy front and centre will have a galvanizing effect for the Republican base, in particular the Evangelical voters who favor the repeal of Roe Vs Wade. This strategy would have the effect of diverting attention away from the ongoing healthcare and economic crisis, and mobilizing Republican voters to go to the polls – especially those who feel uncomfortable with Trump’s often abrasive personal style, contentious pronouncements, and the steady stream of alleged revelations about his conduct.
Watch: Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court Scheme
The Battle for the Supreme Court Seat Has Upended the Election
The first drawback to this approach is that the maneuver has galvanized Democrats at least as much as Republicans, with the Democrats seeing an extraordinary cash haul from donors. This will have the effect of placing McConnell’s majority in greater jeopardy, which may give him pause. He may have decided that a historically conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and the sanctity of life, may be worth ceding the chamber for a few years or more.
There is a further way that hustling the Supreme Court nomination process through could backfire on the Republicans. Many conservatives, especially the evangelical base, but also suburban college educated men, may decide that, if they dislike Trump personally, but see him as the means to obtain priorities important to them, and a Supreme Court with a conservative majority is set in place before election day, then they could view Trump as having served his purpose, and opt to vote for Biden instead, to take care of other priorities important to them, and establish a more civil tone.
In this scenario, moderate conservatives and evangelicals could make the trade off, seeing that a Democratic president would most likely replace yet a further aging liberal justice, and perhaps only one conservative one. With Trump having served as a vehicle for their judicial agenda, he could become surplus to requirements. Trump has also stacked the lower courts with conservative appointees, further cushioning the right-wing dominance of the judiciary, and ensuring the progress of a conservative agenda.
Biden’s Pyrrhic Victory
A one term Biden presidency seems like the least objectionable concession at the presidential level. At 77, Biden would be the oldest president in history, would not seek a second term, and has stated that he sees himself as a bridge to a new generation. Given that enhancing Obamacare is the centrepiece of his legislative agenda, and the law is likely to be struck down by a conservative Supreme Court, he would, in effect, be a lame-duck President, fighting for a lame-duck piece of legislation. He would, in many ways, have been circumvented and neutralized before he even took the oath of office.
In November, an embarrassing defeat for President Trump, would likely lead to a Pyrrhic victory for Joe Biden.