Which is true for every Republican in the Senate, even if Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska felt enough shame to publicly abide by the phony rule their party invented when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, that no vacancies should be filled in the last year of a presidential term.
Fortunately, they have a handy justification for hypocrisy, the same one they’ve used lately to explain away any misdeed, from their unwavering support for the most corrupt and morally repugnant president in American history to shattering every democratic norm in sight: “Look what you made us do.”
It’s the cry of every domestic abuser blaming their victims for their crimes, and it has become the go-to excuse for Republicans. Yes, our actions are indefensible, but we had no choice, because Democrats are so mean.
For Democrats, “Look what you made us do” should become their guiding mantra if they win the White House and control of Congress. It shouldn’t be used as a whiny excuse for their own sins the way Republicans use it.
Instead, it should stand as an ample justification for resetting American democracy.
When Democrats say, “Look what you made us do,” they’ll be explaining how their own agenda has necessarily been shaped by the destruction the Republican Party has wrought.
First let’s note just how many Republicans are now employing the “Look what you made us do” defense.
Everyone knows the truth: When they said that Garland shouldn’t get a hearing because it was the last year of a presidential term, they were just lying. There was no abstract principle to which they felt an obligation; they could block Garland’s nomination, so they did.
No one was more emphatic in propagating that lie than Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who said “I want you to use my words against me” if a Republican president had the same opportunity. Yet today, Graham claims that he had to change his position because Democrats eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominations in 2013, and because they were mean to poor Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Graham’s colleagues were only slightly less shameless. Every Republican senator from John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) offered some variation on the idea that Democrats would be doing exactly the same given the chance. Only Democrats are responsible for the choices Republicans make.
Again and again over the past four years, conservatives have responded to some intemperate liberal’s tweet or campus controversy with, “This is how you got Trump.” In other words, it’s not our fault that we made a corrupt authoritarian racist the leader of our party; it’s your fault. You made us do it. Republicans are always the aggrieved ones, the wounds to their tender feelings ample justification for any unjustifiable action they choose to take.
Which brings us to the Democrats, and the situation they could face next year. As of now it looks as though this nomination will be confirmed, and it also looks as though the blowback will be substantial. If the election were held today, Biden would win a sweeping victory and Democrats would take the Senate.
Should that happen, they will face a Republican Senate minority eager to filibuster literally every meaningful piece of legislation Biden and the majority of Congress support. They will face a Supreme Court that could nullify the Affordable Care Act, tossing 20 million people off health coverage, before it gets around to overturning Roe v. Wade, crippling labor unions, making it impossible for the federal government to regulate pollution and address climate change, and opening the door to even more Republican voter suppression.
So what will Democrats do?
They will have to react to what Republicans have done. That means eliminating the filibuster so they can actually pass legislation. If the Supreme Court does indeed throw the entire American health care system into chaos, it will mean quickly writing a sweeping health care reform bill — one that guarantees most or all Americans coverage through the federal government — to deal with the emergency Republicans created. And yes, it may mean expanding the court to prevent it from crippling the government’s ability to solve problems and cementing Republican minority rule.
And when Republican cry “No fair!” Democrats can say, “All we’re doing is fixing the damage you did. You don’t like it? You have only yourselves to blame.” In other words, Look what you made us do.