Doing so would be hypocritical, given the way Republican senators held up Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, cynical and corrosive to the very idea of democracy. But so what? We’re talking about Trump, who desperately wants voters to focus on something other than the nearly 200,000 people who have died of covid-19 on his watch. We’re talking about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who could not care less what mere citizens might think. And we’re talking about the Senate Republicans, who reliably roll over and give Trump and McConnell whatever they want.
No one can stop them if they decide to go through with this putsch-like power play. But Democrats can make them pay by taking their power away. All of it.
If you’re angry about how the GOP is tilting the Supreme Court, the first thing to focus on is booting Trump out of the White House and into well-deserved obscurity.
Four years ago, too many Democrats — especially young people and African Americans — stayed home on Election Day. Just 80,000 more Democratic votes spread across Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania would have given Hillary Clinton, not Trump, the power to nominate three Supreme Court justices, shaping the high court’s ideological makeup for decades to come.
I don’t know who those Clinton-appointed justices would have been, but I know they wouldn’t be Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and whoever Trump picks later this week. The Supreme Court has to be made a turnout-driving issue for Democrats, the way it has long been for Republicans.
That doesn’t mean, however, letting the battle over replacing Ginsburg become the central issue in the campaign. Joe Biden needs to continue hammering away at Trump’s weaknesses: his abysmal and tragically dishonest performance on the covid-19 pandemic; the economic devastation that resulted from his failure to contain the virus the way leaders of other rich countries did; and his decision to respond to the movement against systemic racism by championing Confederate monuments and channeling bitter White grievance.
Trump knows he is losing and wants to change the subject. Don’t let him.
The other vital task for Democrats is taking control of the Senate. In some of these races — unlike in the presidential contest — the Republicans’ approach to the Supreme Court should be a more central focus.
“I want you to use my words against me,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in 2016, as Republicans were denying even the courtesy of a hearing to Garland, President Barack Obama’s high court nominee. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
Now Graham vows to fast-track Trump’s court pick. His Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison — with whom he is statistically tied, according to polls — has already begun hammering Graham as a man whose word cannot be trusted.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina trail their Democratic opponents; while Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana and Graham are also in serious trouble. If Democrats win any four of those seats, then even if Democrat Doug Jones gets ousted in deep-red Alabama, McConnell’s majority is gone.
If he stays true to form, McConnell will plow forward and try to fill Ginsburg’s seat before the election. But if he decides that doing so would threaten his control of the chamber — or if enough endangered or moderate Republicans balk — he could decide to delay the deed.
He could still do it in the lame-duck session, even if Trump and the Republicans are given the kind of landslide whipping they deserve. But we, the people, will have spoken with a roar. And, come January, Democrats will have the power to do a lot more than nurse their anger.