McConnell argued, with obvious cynicism, that he wanted the American people to weigh in on the president first. They did — preferring Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump overall. But Trump won more electoral votes, and Trump, inaugurated the next year, filled the seat.
The death last week of Ruth Bader Ginsburg created an opportunity to measure McConnell’s sincerity on his advocacy for empowering the electorate. To no one’s surprise, his rationale shifted. The Republican majority in the Senate would move forward with a replacement to Ginsburg because of reasons.
A new CNN poll released Wednesday finds that McConnell’s view is again in the minority. By about the same margin as in 2016, Americans now feel that the seat should be filled by whoever wins in November — which, of course, might still mean Trump. Republicans, insistent that Obama not have that right, have flipped, with 8 in 10 supporting Trump making an appointment now. Democrats, who thought Obama should fill Scalia’s seat when it was left empty nine months before the election, think that the seat should remain open until we see what happens in six weeks’ time.
This will have no effect on McConnell, obviously. McConnell and Trump already have majority support from the group that has been the focus of much of what Trump’s done as president: Republicans. While 1 in 5 Republicans think that the seat should remain open until the election is determined, the other four support the Trump-McConnell position. More than enough for McConnell to move forward as he intends.
The CNN poll, conducted by partner firm SSRS, adds another layer to the broadly minoritarian nature of the Supreme Court fight. A president who came in second in the popular vote will nominate someone to fill Ginsburg’s seat. A Senate led by Republicans who cumulatively represent 48 percent of the population of the United States will hold hearings to consider that nomination and then almost certainly confirm the justice, despite 6 in 10 Americans saying that confirmation should wait until after the election.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) rationalized this course of action by insisting that “if the shoe were on the other foot, [Democrats] would do this in a New York minute,” as he put it in a radio interview.
This is the same Graham who, in 2016, said that “if there’s a Republican president [after] 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.”
Lindsey Graham hears Lindsey Graham, and has decided to set Lindsey Graham’s point to the side. And his party agrees.