In some ways, the approaching battle over President Obama’s choice to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court explains Donald Trump’s astonishing political ascent.
Obama’s nominee, appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, is a judicial moderate who has won the praise of top Republicans in the past. By nominating Garland, the Obama administration has put the GOP in a real bind.
How, for example, do Republican senators who have heaped praise on Garland’s judicial balance now oppose him for a place on the high court?
Democrat strategists say Obama’s move puts Republicans in a no-win position, exposing to the general public that right and wrong are alien concepts to the GOP, and take a back seat to political partisanship.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists there will be no discussions or even meetings with Obama’s nominee. However, McConnell’s Senate GOP colleagues who face re-election next November appear to be having second thoughts. If they cave to the party leader’s intransigence, voters are likely to see such foot-dragging for what it is — an act of political self-preservation, undertaken without regard for America or its citizens.
This is where the Trump candidacy phenomena comes into the picture. If Senate Republicans refuse to interview Garland, it will only confirm what Trump’s legions of supporters already believe, that members of Congress don’t care what average citizens think. Historical precedence and the democratic process take a back seat to the wants and desires of elected officials obsessed with and controlled by political self-interest.
The ultimate irony here is that the candidate so many Republicans seem to have adopted as their hero is the very definition of “obsessed with and controlled by” self-interest.
It will be interesting to see if those GOP senators facing re-election will play along with McConnell’s line-in-the-sand strategy. All Garland needs for confirmation is a handful of Republican votes, and it’s difficult to imagine how naysayers would justify denying the nominee so much as a hearing, when so many of those same senators sang Garland’s praises in the recent past.
The GOP hardliners’ major theme is that the vacant seat should be filled by the next president, to be chosen in November, so the American people will have been given a voice and a choice in the Supreme Court seating arrangements.
That argument crumbles in the face of reality. The American people already made such a choice, twice in fact, to elect and re-elect the person responsible for filling vacant court seats. Obama is fulfilling his responsibility as president, as many of his predecessors have done. If it had been a Republican in the White House the past seven years-plus, he or she would be doing just as Obama is doing.
That is a fact not lost on Americans who have watched as presidential administrations and congresses in years past have devolved into partisanship, consumed by political greed, and unable to perform the most basic functions of a viable government.
If the nomination standoff persists, it’s a safe bet that nothing will get done in the months between now and when the future president is sworn in next January.
We are a house divided and we’re stuck. So far at least, only Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders are raging against this inoperable machine, and both candidates carry heavy baggage. Hillary Clinton is the target of various GOP-driven investigations and inquiries.
We warned months ago about the potential for a political bloodbath in this presidential campaign. The blood has only begun to flow.