I have two clips here, both of them feature MSNBC’s Chris Matthews responding to the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and both of them are counseling Democrats to stop the nomination of a new Justice by any means necessary.
“To give this to the Republicans when they control the Senate basically 51 or 50 to 49 with John McCain perhaps not voting again—to give them this last chance to pack the court 5-4 again hard conservative, I again, I say the base will attack the leadership for this if they allow it to happen and they should. Because this is time for vengeance for what happened 2 years ago. And if they don’t reap the vengeance now with four and half months to go before the election, they will not look very strong to their base.”
“I think the Democrats have to fight this tooth and nail … The base will attack the leadership for this if they allow it to happen and they should. This is the time for vengeance for what happened 2 years ago.” @HardballChris on Kennedy’s retirement. pic.twitter.com/vovZUM4wFi
— Hardball (@hardball) June 27, 2018
Of course, this isn’t the same situation as two years ago. Back then, Republicans controlled the Senate and chose not to give a hearing to Obama’s nominee as he was leaving office. That’s exactly what Matthews and others hope the Democrats can do by putting this off until next year, i.e. reject any conservative nominee offered by Trump. Also, it’s worth pointing out that McConnell’s argument was that the next president should choose the nominee. He had no guarantee at the time that a Republican would get to make that choice. In fact, most people expected Hillary would be the next president. But Trump isn’t leaving office next January. He’ll be around for two more years at least. So even if the Democrats take the Senate, all they can do is create a stalemate.
Now let’s move on to clip two. In this clip, Matthews makes it explicit that his main concern is the future of Roe v. Wade. “To allow [Trump] to pick another Supreme Court Justice is frightening,” Matthews said. He continued, “I used to think that Roe v. Wade was secure. I don’t think it will be secure now. I don’t think it will be secure at all with five hard-nosed conservatives.” “I think the leadership [of the Democratic Party] is finished if they allow this to come to a vote,” Matthews added.
Asked how Democrats could prevent the inevitable, Matthews responded, “They have to use dilatory tactics, all the hardball tactics that Mr. McConnell is very good at…Don’t allow a vote on this, don’t have a hearing, don’t have a meeting, don’t let anything go forward. Don’t play ball with this decision…If they let this come to a vote and he squeaks in with 50 votes with the Vice President supporting this, they’ll never be forgiven for this.
Even if Democrats manage to put off this vote somehow and take back the Senate this fall, their margin isn’t likely to much bigger than that of the Republicans right now. Matthews keeps suggesting a 51-49 vote is somehow illegitimate to decide something so momentous, but would a 52-48 vote to block every nominee be much more legitimate? Of course not, but it would get Democrats like Matthews the result they want. In other words, this isn’t about legitimacy, this is about partisanship.
That said, I think Chris Matthews is right about the mood on the left. We’ve spent the past week discussing whether or not personal confrontations of public figures is appropriate in restaurants. The Democratic leadership was nominally against it while a substantial portion of the base was cheering it on.
Now the base is on fire with a new threat. The party is going to have to forget about name-checking civility if they want to avoid getting burned. And let’s face it, there are no norms the left won’t incinerate to protect Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood will be urging them on with everything it has. And that strikes me as enough kindling to make this a potentially dangerous moment for America. I think this could get very ugly, very fast. Harsh words in public may be the least of it this time. This has the potential to be explosive.
Update: Matthews is so worked up over this he started yelling at an MSNBC host who was only trying to ask him what “tool” or mechanism Democrats could use to prevent a confirmation vote. When pressed, Matthews snapped “I’m not a parliamentarian.” Despite that, he assured viewers the Dems could find some way to prevent this: