Most people who know me would not be surprised to find out that I’m an avid listener to NPR. For the last few days, however, I’ve been frustrated anytime I turn on the radio to hear gavel to gavel coverage of the hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Typically, I would be quite interested in these hearings. In this case, however, my interest is mitigated by the total and complete lack of any suspense over what will happen. Spoiler alert… here’s everything that will happen. He will continue to dodge all questions and say nothing of substance. The White House will produce no further documents. He will be confirmed by a party-line vote now that we have done away with the filibuster for judicial nominations.
To be fair, Kavanaugh is an impressive jurist who would likely have been nominated by any Republican President. The problem is the toxic political environment that exists surrounding judicial nominations. The Democrats will paint him as the devil, the Republicans as a saint. Then he will be confirmed because the Republicans have the votes.
This nomination, of course, comes in the wake of Mitch McConnell’s theft of a Democratic Supreme Court seat. As everyone knows, he stopped President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing. It is true that there is plenty of blame to go around for the politicization of the judicial nomination process, dating back to the Democrats’ defeat of President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Court. But McConnell’s action went over the line, and he better be afraid of the time Democrats regain the Senate majority, as they will sometime, maybe even this year. The Democrats are pissed and retribution is in the offing.
It’s about time Democrats woke up to the fact that the real prize in electoral politics is the court system. I remember working on the Dukakis for President campaign in 1988 while I was in college, urging people who were nominal Democrats to actively support Dukakis if for no other reason than the Court.
I made similar arguments to Nader supporters in 2000. “Don’t waste your vote,” I told them. “The Court is too important not to vote for Gore.”
I again made the same arguments to Stein supporters in 2016. It’s clear, by the way, the Stein won more than enough votes to make the difference for Hillary Clinton in the critical swing states.
Liberals, leftists and progressives, whatever we call ourselves, like to fall in love with a candidate. We love to feel the passion that transports us. The problem is that our passion is entirely irrational.
We were passionate about Obama in 2008. But in truth, he was a cautious moderate. Should we have supported him? Yes. But the fact that he was not what many of us projected upon him led to our disappointment with him and a dangerously close re-election in 2012.
Our lack of passion for Hillary led to our votes for Bernie and Jill Stein. Much to the thrill of the Republicans and Vladimir Putin, those votes were wasted and led directly to these two Supreme Court seats being filled by radical Republicans.
Passion is not a political strategy. The Republicans have understood that for years. The current situation is illustrative. They know exactly how big a scumbag Donald Trump is. They don’t care. As long as he appoints the conservative judges, they will support him. Time and again they have shown remarkable discipline, swallowed their emotions and voted for someone they were unenthused about for the sole purpose of getting conservative judges nominated.
As has happened all too often, we are late to the party. We now realize that we need to focus on judges at a time when the Supreme Court is likely under the control of the right wing for the next generation or more. This is not to suggest that this different approach is not needed. It just disappoints me that it took us so long to get to this point.
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