There’s this fear that if Breyer waits to retire, Republicans retake the Senate in the 2022 midterms and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reinstalled as Senate majority leader, then Biden’s eventual Supreme Court nominee would stand as much chance as a wax donkey in hell. But whose problem is that? It’s certainly not Breyer’s to solve.
With more than 40 years on the federal bench— including nearly 27 years on the high court — Breyer rightly maintains that judges should not be seen as politicians in robes. That’s what he would become were he to bow to pressure and step down. Yes, indeed, a fight must be waged to prevent McConnell from shifting the court’s majority even further to the right. But the battleground is not inside the Beltway, and certainly not between competing legal minds, editorials and op-ed pieces. The struggle that makes a difference takes place on Election Day 2022 in voting precincts across the country.
For a moment, set aside the navel-gazing about the Supreme Court, and focus on reality. Unless Republicans gain control of the Senate next year and eliminate Vice President Harris as a tie-breaking vote, McConnell will not be judicial kingmaker but just another grumbling political bystander.
Yes, he’s one vote away from making Biden and Democrats miserable for the next two years. But if the political left can take their noses out of Breyer’s business, and look well beyond Capitol Hill, they might discover that Democrats are in position to expand their narrow Senate margin and reach a healthy voting majority to advance the Biden agenda — with the added benefit of not having to rely upon wannabe powerbroker Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) anymore.
To make that happen, Democrats must hold the Georgia and Arizona Senate seats now in the hands of Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who flipped the two red seats blue last year. The same goes for the seats held by Nevada’s Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire’s Sen. Maggie Hassan, also first-term Democrats.
Republicans, led by a vengeful, venomous and flush-with-cash former GOP president Donald Trump, want to pick them all off next year. Democrats need to throw their weight behind the foursome, bolstering their campaigns with seasoned staffers, volunteers and, most of all, the mother’s milk of politics — money.
Meanwhile, McConnell can’t afford to start daydreaming about what he and a GOP-controlled Senate will do to Biden. He’s got some serious defense to play to hold onto open seats: McConnell won’t have Pennsylvania GOP senator Pat Toomey around after Election Day 2022. The same goes for North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Ohio’s Rob Portman and Missouri’s Roy Blunt, all of them retiring. Democrats have a chance to flip those — especially North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio — if they can stop fulminating about McConnell and start organizing an all-out campaign.
Stone-faced McConnell won’t give a hint about what’s on his mind. But he’s got to be losing sleep, too, over what might happen if Wisconsin voters realize that in Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, they have not only a Trump toady but also a Grade A, certifiable political flake representing them in the Senate. Some Badger State Democrats can be heard chanting: “Run, Ron, Run.”
And Florida may be trending red, but don’t count out Democrat Rep. Val Demings in her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
All of which is to say: The Senate is in play, the Supreme Court is for another day, and in the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the great Black poet, novelist and short-story writer after whom my high school was named, Justice Breyer should stay on the job and “keep a-pluggin’ away.”