A Supreme Court Mess

Just before going to bed Saturday night, I looked at my phone (which I normally avoid at night) and saw the headline that hit me like a truck: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at 87 years old. I immediately regretted looking at my phone. Really, what good can come out of looking at the news before bed. I instantly knew a political bomb was dropped in an already over-the-top gonzo super-charged election. The “October surprised” came early is a mild way of putting it.

Trump and Mitch McConnell didn’t waste time saying that they were going to fill the seat before the election, of course causing a massive controversy. The Democrats still haven’t digest what the Republicans did in 2012 with then-President Obama.

Some President never gets a pick. Just having one pick is a major decision. Trump is getting three picks in his first term assuming this one goes through. His first two picks were re-nominating conservatives judges to maintain the statue quo. But now he gets to flip a seat from liberal to conservative. Trump and McConnell gets to complete a judicial coup and install a 6-to-3 conservative majority. I don’t recall anything like that from happening and the Dems are freaking out.

The Democrats really have no power to stop them. So they make threats that if they take control of Congress that they will make sure that they get their day (severe retaliatory actions like expanding court, adding states (D.C. + Puerto Rico). For the Dems to take action they will need at least 52 seats plus the White House.

I don’t want to rehash everything that happened. If you read the news you know what happened in 2012 when McConnell and the Republicans stalled Obama to let the voters decide with ten months to go before the vote. It’s hard not to see the hypocrisy. But this is politics. Hypocrisy is an enduring norm with a long pedigree. Wouldn’t you have expected otherwise? You think the Democrats wouldn’t have not the done same in a similar situation? Try to imagine the reaction of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi if a conservative Supreme Court justice had died weeks before the re-election bid of a Democratic president while that party also controlled the Senate.

At first I was a “shocked” that the Republicans will go ahead with that. It’s hard to have faith in your politician, the government, the institutions when they pull that kind of tricks. But now that I digested the news, maybe the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot with rushing the process.

At the moment of typing this post Trump is leaning towards Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a potential replacement. But it could change soon because they often send ” trial balloons” in the media to measure the reaction. Nominating Amy Barrett signals two things 1) Trump is going after the female vote 2) Trump is going after that “undecided/frustrated” middle-right centrist voter.

However that strategy might not pay off. Install Barrett and centrist GOP voters have one less reason to hold their nose to vote Trump. This could make the difference in the Presidential election. The Republican establishment probably already know that but staging the legal coup is very important to them. It’s worth the price to pay.

The simple answer here has always been that the GOP would confirm someone, because it’s worth an awful lot to them, and also that they’ll pay a price for doing so, because it’s worth paying a price for something that’s worth a lot to you. Maybe to the Republicans is worth sacrificing a few seats if you can reverse abortion and have a long-term hold on the judicial branch. If you’re McConnell you just want to get somebody confirmed as soon as you can, and then deal with the consequences (electorally and otherwise) later.

By paying a price, the polling suggests this is an unpopular move, perhaps verging on very unpopular depending on which poll you look at. So, it’s likely to make it harder (though far from impossible) for the GOP to hold the Senate. Is that the decision that will push the Senate to flip blue? And get slaughtered in the 2022 mid-term. But the playbook plays out, the Dems will be able to draw some decent House maps in redistricting, they can add D.C.+ Puerto Rico to help mitigate their Senate disadvantage, and the GOP seems to have trouble winning the presidency; it’s not a bad medium-run position.

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