Now, I am not suggesting that Donald Trump should wait until after the midterms to nominate a replacement—or that he should nominate a moderate or a liberal. Quite the contrary, I’m remarking on the fact that we have arrived at a point where—because of the high stakes and past transgressions—the normal and appropriate exercise of power is still seen by half of the country as an outrage.
Think of it. There’s nothing wrong with Justice Kennedy deciding to retire, and there’s nothing wrong with President Trump nominating a conservative to replace him. Really, on the merits, this development shouldn’t be generating so much angst. As Philip Bump notes, whoever replaces Kennedy—almost certainly a staunch conservative—would have voted the same way Kennedy did this term on the vast majority of cases.
Nevertheless, replacing Justice Kennedy will come with a cost. Things are about to get even uglier. The understandable reaction of Democrats will be to seek vengeance. This is a vicious cycle, and there’s no telling where (or if) it will end.