Outrage over the election of Donald Trump has already lead to a bill to eliminate the electoral college and suggestions to do away with state governments. But I missed this whine from Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick when it was published Monday afternoon. In a piece titled “Republicans stole the Supreme Court” Lithwick argues that Democrats should get angry and make a futile attempt to obstruct Trump’s appointment of a successor to Justice Scalia:
We are already hearing from Republicans and Democrats in leadership positions that it is incumbent on Americans to normalize and legitimize the new Trump presidency. We are told to give him a chance, to reach across the aisle, and that we must all work hard, in President Obama’s formulation, to make sure that Trump succeeds. But before you decide to take Obama’s advice, I would implore you to stand firm and even angry on this one point at least: The current Supreme Court vacancy is not Trump’s to fill. This was President Obama’s vacancy and President Obama’s nomination. Please don’t tacitly give up on it because it was stolen by unprecedented obstruction and contempt. Instead, do to them what they have done to us. Sometimes, when they go low, we need to go lower, to protect a thing of great value.
After a recitation of Republicans’ refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland, Lithwick launches into her call to block Trump’s appointment:
The only proper response from progressives today must be that Donald Trump is a lame-duck president with only four years left in his term, and we must let the people decide the next justice for the Supreme Court. Less fatuously, it must be to obstruct the nomination and seating of any Trump nominee to fill Scalia’s seat. We will lose. But that’s not the point now.
This is quite literally anger and outrage in the service of nothing. Lithwick advises that “Senate Democrats should filibuster whomever Trump picks.” A paragraph later she admits this effort will fail and that the failure is, to some degree, Democrats’ own fault:
If Senate Democrats attempt to filibuster, Senate Republicans will probably just kill the filibuster for Supreme Court seats, as they have already promised to do, and as Democrats only last week were promising to do if they won the Senate. This is how it will go down. Democrats will live to regret the killing of the filibuster.
Lithwick concludes that the only thing Democats can do is send, “fresh fruit and a Vitamix to Justices Ginsburg and Breyer.” That too is probably wishful thinking. As I wrote last week, with Republicans well-positioned to hold the Senate in 2018, those two Justices will have to hold out four more years to even have a chance at getting a replacement to their liking.
The course of action Lithwick is proposing isn’t a strategy, it’s a tantrum. As silly as Senator Boxer’s proposal to abolish the electoral college is, at least it has a goal. There is some course of action which could (at least in theory) lead to a desired outcome. But that’s not the case with this effort to obstruct for obstructionism’s sake. There is no goal here and no principle at stake. No high ground is being defended. As Lithwick admits, Democrats were poised to use these same levers of power against the GOP back when they expected to win the election.
Unfocused anger is not an end in itself. Lithwick has become the person who incites a mob to burn down it’s own neighborhood in protest. At some point, cooler heads need to prevail on the left.