Back in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to proceed with President Obama’s choice to fill the vacant supreme court seat. It was a bold move and created a new precedent for confirming supreme court justices; it was defended by McConnell as a way the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice”, essentially delaying it because the country was approaching an election.
Well how the tables have turned. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, poster girl for the liberal left in America, died last Friday leaving a vacancy in the court. As this is an election year there is a battle brewing over whether to postpone the appointment until after the election or proceed with President Trump’s pick.
McConnell, still the Senate Majority Leader, has said he will forgo his own precedent and go ahead with a vote for Trump’s pick. The implications of this are huge: it may well lead to a conservative majority on the supreme court for the next few decades. McConnell may be forced to eat his own words, which were echoed by his Democrat counterpart Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but this entire scenario is showing him up to be the best political gamesman in town.
He’s played a blinder. He stopped an initial appointment which would have been liberal and is now pushing through a conservative option to replace a liberal. Quite frankly this isn’t surprising either. They may be vilified for it, but the right are meaner, dirtier political gameplayers and it shows. They push through more of their agenda, they win more (especially when it’s a tight race) and they make the left look weak and powerless. It’s this ruthless, dirty approach to politics that will probably mean that McConnell will get Trump’s pick through the senate. The left is far too nice and noble. Sometimes it just takes being a bit mean and a bit dirty to get the things you want to achieve over the line.
From my perspective the strategic option is that Biden must threaten McConnell with the so-called ‘nuclear option’. This option is made possible by the thinness of the constitution relating to the Supreme Court; there is no limit on the number of justices that can sit on the court. As FDR did back in the 1930s, Biden must threaten to stack the court with liberal justices. He must be willing to bend the unspoken rules of the game. McConnell and the Republicans certainly have no regard for these rules. In fact, they actively bend them to their will. The Democrats have to start playing dirty. They have to be willing to bend the rules when they need to. Otherwise this will be a continual cycle of Republican’s out-witting Democrats. In the end, this only serves to harm the people the Democrats claim to represent: the vulnerable, minorities and the forgotten Americans.
The Republicans have been getting away with this sort of politics for too long and its time the Democrats took them to town.
Daniel is a political activist and Senior Associate Editor of Liberal Base. His interests are in populism, democratic crisis, western party politics and automation. He tweets @danny_hod and blogs at dannyhodson.com