Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is pressing ahead in his effort to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to fill the seat vacated by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Republicans Win, Because They are Willing to Exert Raw Political Power
Once again, the Democrats have been thwarted, out-maneuvered, have wrongly assumed that high-mindedness and conventions will be abided by, have supposed that demonstrable and flagrant hypocrisy might be impediments to Republicans, and have been bested by an opposition that will manipulate, jerrymander, filibuster and improvise through whatever Machiavellian needs are necessary to get what they want.
The Republicans, both shrewd and brutally obtuse, are more than prepared to ‘take a hit’ and bear the consequences and backlash of twisting the rules and going back on their word, because it largely doesn’t matter: members of Congress, and Senators, are, more than ever, elected by clear right or left constituencies, and, outside a shrinking number of swing states, are not beholden to public opinion as much as they used to be.
Watch: Republican Lindsey Graham asks to be held accountable for his words.
The Democrats, once again, are being pushed around by an opposition party that ought to have less leverage. The Republicans have lost the popular vote for president in six of the last seven elections. The only one they did win, in 2004, was the lowest margin of re-election for a sitting President in history. Despite this, Republican George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote to Al Gore by 500,000 votes, would go on to appoint two supreme court justices during his second term. Now, Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote by 3,000,000 has appointed a further two justices, with a likely third in the coming weeks or months. The supreme court majority, therefore, as pointed out by David Axelrod, will shortly be made up almost entirely of appointees made by Republican Presidents who lost the popular vote, leading to a tyranny of the minority, and a court that, on issues such as abortion rights, The Affordable Care Act, and perhaps even Marriage Equality, will be far to the right of mainstream American opinion and sentiment, and will be looked upon, not as an enlightened and impartial body, but as a right-wing institution reshaping America in ways the general population doesn’t want, leading to decades of dissent and acrimony. The Supreme Court, will become, in effect, a rubber stamp for the Republican Party.
In addition to the Republicans losing the popular vote for president in six of the last seven elections, they also got fewer votes for the House in 2012; but because of their gerrymandering efforts – cynically using their state legislatures to carve up Congressional districts to favor their candidates, they were able to maintain their majority. The Party has, through a mixture of timing and shrewdness, exploited the system to preserve power across all factions of government.
The supreme court majority will be made up almost entirely of Judges appointed by Presidents who lost the popular vote, leading to a tyranny of the minority.
Biden Would be a Lame-duck President, Fighting For a Lame-duck Piece of Legislation
The end result is that, even if Joe Biden were to win the election, he will have essentially been bested in the long game in many of his key priorities. He has pledged to preserve Obamacare, and add a public option to it – but a newly configured Republican Supreme Court would probably strike down the Act as a whole, or at least many of its provisions. Environmental programs and social empowerment initiatives would also probably face resistance.
Once again, like with the nomination of Justice Kavanagh, Democrats wring their hands and hope a handful of Republicans will be struck with conscience and concede that going through with a confirmation process weeks from an election, when they established a precedent that the voters should be left to decide, might seem hypocritical. No such result will materialize. For the Republicans, the Supreme Court ultimately means overturning Roe vs Wade, the landmark decision on reproductive rights. In the coming years, with a 6 – 3 Conservative majority, Abortion restrictions will likely become intensely severe. The sanctity of life, as conservatives have it, ultimately transcends any political considerations.
Once Again, The Democrats Cling to a Few False Hopes
There is one ray of light for the Democrats: if internal polling in swing states in the race for the Senate demonstrates to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell that the issue is polling negatively, thus jeopardizing the Republican Senate Majority, then he may think twice about the push for a new nominee. Irrespective of this, he may simply wait until the lame-duck session of Congress, after the election, and get it done then.
Persevering with his current healthcare plan would make Biden, who would be certain, at his age, to only serve one term, a lame duck president, fighting for a lame duck piece of legislation. What He ought to do is confront the reality and make a radical pivot, declaring that the situation has changed, the Republicans are going to destroy Obamacare, leave voters with their healthcare in flux, and will have no plan for an alternative. Therefore, the next most effective option is to adopt a version of the ‘Medicare for All’ proposed legislation by Bernie Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Warren, which would be defendable as a piece of standalone legislation, constitutionally viable, and then dare the court to strike it down. The pivot would energize the left wing of the party; the centre and moderate elements are already committed, and moderate voters, tired of the anxiety surrounding the fate of healthcare, could be swayed by the proposition that they are about to lose their current plan, and might see a single-payer system as an endgame to resolve the issue once and for all. Such a declaration might have the effect of spooking a handful of Republicans as an act of brinkmanship. Democrats, alternatively, could decide to stack the court by adding more judges.
These things will almost certainly not happen, of course: this is the Democratic party, and they will ultimately passively roll over, grousing high-mindedly while the very nature of American life is altered for a generation to come by an opposition willing to exert raw political power.