The immediate and panicked Republican response to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death may be fatal to their keeping control of the Senate and their hopes to win the Presidency.
Never before in the history of the United States has the Majority Leader of The Senate announced that the Senate would simply refuse to follow the Constitution and cause damage to the judicial branch of our democracy because it was better for their party to do so.
But that is exactly what Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would do, just moments after the news of Scalia’s death was announced. Republicans will trample over the deaths of their own icons before their bodies are even cold just to gain political advantage. As they say about criminals, there seems to be no honor among Republicans anymore (as anyone watching GOP debates can attest).
Party over country. Power over responsibility. Control over obeying The Constitution.
Since regaining control in The House, Republicans shut down our government in a failed plot of political extortion, to force passage on what a majority of Americans opposed. They threatened repeatedly and came to the brink of refusing to raise the debt ceiling (which isn’t increasing spending but agreeing to pay the bills and debts already incurred) to extort the nation into bowing to their unpopular views. Now, despite Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution being very specific as to the duties of The Senate to advise and consent when the President follows his duties to appoint a Supreme Court justice, McConnell and Republicans now claim that they have the option to ignore their Constitutional duties if it’s to their political benefit.
In the end though, their actions will likely turn out to deliver just the opposite.
The very lame and primary propaganda these Republicans are using to try and hide their crass partisanship behind is, “Let the people have a voice in the pick for the Supreme Court through the upcoming Presidential election!” As can be seen all around the internet, this dishonesty isn’t gaining any traction, a frequent response by citizens is that the people already decided in 2012 that they wanted President Obama to be the one filling any SCOTUS vacancies during his Presidency.
And in light of all the frothing of Republicans about the need to replace Scalia with as identical a juror as possible, why would McConnell and his cronies suddenly respect the will of the people in an election when it doesn’t go their way? Does anyone really expect McConnell and Company to concede to a President Bernie Sanders or President Hillary Clinton, “Well, the people decided they wanted you picking the next Supreme Court justice, we’ll go ahead and confirm whichever qualified candidate you propose!”?
Their hypocrisy would be amusing if it wasn’t so destructive to our democratic system. While condemning how politically slanted it would be for Obama to nominate who he would want to fill the position, all of the Republican candidates for President as well as McConnell and his GOP colleagues, insist that only a justice who was as politically slanted to the right as Scalia would be acceptable.
And BTW, the propaganda that Obama is a lame duck President who shouldn’t fill the position is just flat out dishonest. “Lame Duck” applies to Presidents in the brief period after the November election when the next President has been elected but the current President remains in office until January. Also, as some pundits have pointed out to Republicans, Obama has virtually an entire year left, his 4th year of his presidency and as asked, when did Presidents only get a 3 year term?
I don’t know that anyone would be surprised by this anti-Constitutional stance by Republicans. In the era of the corrupt democracy we’re living in, when the wealthy control so much of what happens, when voter suppression is so widespread, when we have an illegitimate minority of the country in power as a majority of The House due to gerrymandering and when one of our two parties has deteriorated into thriving on the lowest traits of human beings (fear, hatred, racism and bigotry, misogyny…basically, Donald Trumpism), seeing the Republicans happily refuse to follow the Constitution because their party doesn’t control the White House is far from unexpected. Nor is their pathetic and childish excuse that, “Obama doesn’t follow The Constitution according to us so we don’t have to either! Nyah-nyah!”
But intentionally sabotaging our system and structure of democracy does come with a price.
This year, Republicans have 25 seats up for election in The Senate, the Democrats only have 10. These are the seats that were won in the Republican landslide of 2010 so a number of the Republican seats are in blue or purple states. The Democrats only need to win a net increase of 4 seats (with a Democrat winning the White House) to take control of The Senate back.
And this latest and severe dereliction of duty by Senate Republicans, abusing their position of power in The Senate, gives Democrats a powerful weapon to win those and possibly more seats back from them.
Republicans are displaying that they are unworthy of controlling the Senate, they do not feel bound by duty or the Constitution in the way they conduct themselves…they have no argument to make for being put back in control of it except to continue putting the consolidation of power for their party first and abusing their position of power to undermine The Senate, The Constitution and the SCOTUS if it is to their party’s benefit.
Being realistic, even if the Republicans in the Senate weren’t taking such an anti-Constitutional, destructive position at the outset of refusing to even consider any SCOTUS nominees submitted by Pres. Obama, they wouldn’t have supported any of his nominees in a way that would have overcome filibusters. So no nominees would have gotten through this year even if the Dems controlled the Senate (unless they used the nuclear option to prevent filibusters of SCOTUS picks…which would be unlikely because they would be concerned about not having that power when they were in the minority).
It would be hard to imagine Democrats running for the Senate not running on the necessity of removing the Republicans from their seats because they are self-evidently unfit to govern. A nationally-minded campaign would seem to be most effective, elect the Democrats for Senate in your state so that The Republicans are no longer in control and continue to damage our democratic institutions. Tangential to that would be the argument that voting for the Democrat for Senate would mean voting for a moderate or liberal justice to fill the Scalia vacancy which means ending Citizens United, restoring the Civil Rights Act, supporting sensible gun control, protecting a woman’s right to choose, joining with the rest of the world to combat Climate Change and pollution, etc. Campaigning on such potent change could be a meaningful boost for Democrats running for The Senate.
The upsides of this situation are all on the Democrats side. Obama will no doubt nominate someone who is eminently qualified to be a SCOTUS judge and whether the Repubs continue to refuse to follow the Constitution or hold votes but filibuster or vote down that person, they affirm they won’t fulfill their responsibilities to the nation and are therefore unfit to have power in The Senate.
The majority of Americans support the positions that a moderate or liberally minded SCOTUS would hold and would swing the SCOTUS to rule favorably on. Describing how the country could be changed swiftly for the better with a Dem President, Senate and majority of moderates/liberals on the SCOTUS would be a real but not disruptive revolution of the type that the nation really seems to desire at this point in time.
Compare that with what the Republican argument would be if the Senate campaigns are nationalized.
“Vote Republican because we will prevent the Supreme Court from functioning properly for as many years as it takes if Democrats win the Presidency!”
“Vote Republican because we won’t work for the country or follow our Constitution responsibilities if it doesn’t benefit our party!”
“Vote Republican because we are fine with crippling every branch of government, our entire system of democracy, until we can get back into power!”
Though the destruction of a functioning government may appeal to the Repub base (and isn’t that a pitiful thing to know as being true for one of our two major political parties?), it is not a winning argument to make to the majority of voters in this nation…they wouldn’t be voting in the first place if they didn’t have an expectation of having a functional democracy.
In a totally unscientific review of the public reactions across the internet so far to Republicans refusing to follow their Constitutional duties in The Senate on SCOTUS confirmations, it sure seems that a wide majority is unhappy with them and views their obviously partisan actions as flat out wrong.
The irony is that in the end, Antonin Scalia may be responsible for a Democratic victory in the Senate, the Presidency and insuring a more liberal Supreme Court for decades to come.