Do we have to lose something before we appreciate it?
Losing a Supreme Court seat that President Obama should have been allowed to fill was a blow (and an early sign of just how low McConnell would go.) Then, when the GOP confirmed Brett Kavanaugh, we lost the lean of the Supreme Court to the conservatives where they now have the 5-4 majority.
As much as we all love Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both appointed by Democratic presidents, we have to recognize that they are 81 and 86, respectively. The chances of them retiring, or passing away while seated, are very, very likely during the next president’s term.
To make matters worse, the Democrats have simply not cared about the courts as much as the Republicans have. I’ve seen folks who are quick to blame Obama for not pushing harder to have his SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, get confirmation hearings but in reality, Democratic voters just didn’t push much. We stayed angry, but at no point did we mobilize and push back as we did for, say the Senate vote on Obamacare or even Kavanaugh’s nomination, for that matter.
Contrast that to the Republicans. In election after election, GOP voters point to the Supreme Court as an extremely important reason for why they were voting for the GOP nominee for president. Voters push the issue, mega-donors push the issue, they have multiple think tanks and Super-PACs devoted to funding politicians who will advocate and push for conservative judges. They all LOVE Mitch McConnell for the work he’s done to transform the judiciary. That’s all McConnell does in the Senate anymore. Why? Because there is an entire political machine focused on that one goal.
All that said, I sincerely hope that the Democrats care more about the courts going forward. We are looking at an extremely dangerous situation right now if we don’t win the White House and the Senate. All of our hard-earned wins in the legislatures could go by the wayside — this is happening both in the states (like in Wisconsin where the courts agreed that the GOP could strip the Democratic governor of certain powers) and at the federal level where we’ve already had SCOTUS undermine voting rights laws and may deal Obamacare a fatal blow.
Here’s what could happen:
The Democrats flip the Senate, but Trump gets re-elected.
If there is a vacancy, Trump makes his nomination and we know he’ll continue to pick people from the Federalist’s list. Will the Democratic-led Senate be able to get away with not confirming any judges for 4 years?
Democrats win the White House, but the GOP hangs on to the Senate.
Now we have the Obama/Merrick Garland situation all over again. Our Democratic president makes a nomination, but McConnell refuses to hold any kind of confirmation hearing. And as we’ve learned, there is nothing the Democrats can do to stop that.
Trump is re-elected and the GOP hangs on to the Senate.
This makes things really easy for Republicans. Trump nominates the worst of the worst, and McConnell’s Senate will confirm them, with Susan Collins’ obligatory fence-sitting until she, of course, votes for the horrendous nominee.
What should we do?
In November, we HAVE to flip the Senate and we HAVE to flip the White House. (Click each for the plan to win those contests.) It is literally the only thing standing between us and a 7-2 conservative tilt on the Supreme Court. One bright note, a poll taken right before the 2018 midterms showed that 81% of Democratic voters said that the Supreme Court was a deciding factor in how they were voting. On the other hand, that was shortly after Kavanaugh had been confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Is our fire still there? Are we as fired up about protecting the courts as the Republicans are? For the sake of our democracy and our civil rights, I surely hope so.