Just how profoundly did Democrats dig the hole in which they now stand? The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pulls out a Lord of the Rings reference in order to explain their predicament in dealing with a new Supreme Court nomination from Donald Trump:
There may come a day when Democrats’ decisions to invoke the “nuclear option” in 2013 and filibuster Neil M. Gorsuch will be vindicated. Today is not that day.
Neither was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, for that matter. Nor did the the confirmations of dozens of appellate circuit and district court judges, as well as almost all of Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments, vindicate Harry Reid’s decision to nuke the filibuster on presidential appointments. It’s true that it came as Republicans were stalling Barack Obama’s attempts to fill the DC Circuit with liberal judges for appellate review, but it’s equally true that that followed years of obstruction during the George Bush administration.
Reid escalated the stakes, and … that’s not turning out too well for Democrats now, Blake notes:
And while Democrats might not have been able to prevent any of it, they certainly helped grease the skids. Circumstances, perhaps ones Democrats could and should have guarded against, have conspired to make their maneuvering look increasingly bad. And for liberals who are understandably furious about the whole mess, there should be enough blame to go around. …
Trump nominated Gorsuch, a young, controversy-free conservative judge who seemed to be out of Central Casting. He was the kind of nominee who has generally sailed to confirmation — and, in fact, was unanimously confirmed by voice vote to an appeals court position in 2006.
Gorsuch also would not technically have shifted the court to the right, given that Scalia had anchored the court’s conservative flank for decades. But Democrats were upset. They were perhaps quite understandably sore about the GOP’s bogus justifications for blocking Garland and about Trump’s shockingly winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Strategy gave way to the emotion of the moment, and they gave their base the filibuster it demanded.
One lesson from this episode: Short-term strategies to exploit emotion will likely fail in the long run. Consider that a lesson unlearned, however, especially as Democrats realize that they don’t have any way of keeping Trump from winning if he holds all 51 Republican votes. Democrats are preparing for the upcoming nomination — who has yet to be named — by venting their spleen at their most vulnerable incumbents:
Three centrist Democrats fighting for their political lives faced growing pressure from liberal activists and some of their own Senate colleagues Thursday to oppose President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana already were navigating tough politics five months before the midterms, seeking reelection in states Trump won by hefty double digits in 2016. Each is critical to Democratic chances of wresting control of the Senate in November. …
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) took turns at the microphone to demand unwavering opposition to Trump’s nominee.
“The battle lines have been drawn,” Gillibrand said , shouting at the top of her lungs at the rally. “Which side are you on?”
Presumably not the stupid side. Democrats insist that they are in position to win back the trust of voters as responsible legislators in districts and states where Trump won. In nearly the same breath, they then demand absolute fealty to progressive leadership when it comes to blocking Trump’s nominees. The extent to which Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer can manipulate these red-state incumbents will prove very educational to the voters who will choose whether they return — and to voters in other areas who keep hearing claims that the Democrats are the reasonable, moderate party.
The only way to stop Trump’s nominee is to get two Republicans to vote against him or her. That’s it. It doesn’t depend on what Manchin, Heitkamp, or Donnelly do, and it doesn’t depend on what Gillibrand or Schumer do either, for that matter. Rather than recognize the fact that they’ve brought themselves to this sorry state, Democratic leadership apparently wants to eat its own in an attempt to impose its will on a process in which its will is now irrelevant. The only proper response to that is to … pass the popcorn.
For the future, though, as activists on both sides insist on removing the norms and processes that prevented radicalism from gaining a stronghold in American politics, I’ll leave you with my favorite scene from my favorite film, in which the end result of the destruction of all rules to chase down the devil is aptly predicted. Let’s hope that leaders in both parties learn a very belated lesson in this.